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Mediation under way in New London police wrongful death lawsuit

Attorneys for the City of New London and survivors of homicide victim David Romero are trying to resolve a civil lawsuit involving the police department through mediation.

Middletown Superior Court Judge Robert L. Holzberg began mediating talks between the parties last week, with Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio attending Friday's session.

The talks are set to resume today.

"We've been working hard to try and bring about a settlement," said attorney Robert I. Reardon Jr. of New London. He said he could not discuss specifics but noted that a settlement would be paid out by the city's insurance company and would not come out of the city's budget.

Reached by phone Monday afternoon, Finizio's assistant Zak Leavy said the mayor could not comment on pending litigation. Attorneys for the city and its insurance company could not be reached to comment.

Reardon represents Romero's girlfriend, Ayfer Kaya, and his sister, Marta Paguada, in a wrongful death lawsuit alleging that police failed to respond properly to escalating domestic violence incidents involving Kaya and her ex-husband, Kurtulus Kalican, and failed to confiscate a .357 magnum from Kalican. The jealous former spouse critically injured Kaya and killed Romero when he entered Kaya's home on Blackhall Street on Sept. 22, 2003, and opened fire. Kalican is serving a 64-year prison sentence.

The civil lawsuit, filed in 2005, was headed to trial in New London Superior Court this month. Four jurors had been selected when Reardon moved for a mistrial and filed a federal complaint alleging that police Chief Margaret Ackley had inappropriately contacted officials from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement on Jan. 26 to ask about Romero's immigration status. The city, claiming the Honduran native was in the United States illegally, had petitioned the court to allow testimony about his immigration status in an effort to demonstrate it could diminish by $1 million the plaintiffs' claim of economic damages.

Judge Emmet L. Cosgrove denied the motion for mistrial on Feb. 10 and ordered jury selection to resume Feb. 14. But after the court adjourned, Reardon said he received a phone call from the court indicating that mediation, which had been attempted unsuccessfully before jury selection began, would be resuming before Judge Holzberg. He said the talks took place from Tuesday to Friday and will continue today. During mediation, the judge meets with one party at a time in an effort to come to an agreement.

Meanwhile, Finizio last week released a series of emails showing that Ackley, concerned she might be "crossing the line," checked with the city's attorneys after she was asked by the Boston law firm Cetrulo & Capone that represents the city to contact an immigration official.

City attorney Brian Estep told the chief she was not violating Romero's civil rights because he is deceased and said it was up to her whether or not she wanted to make the phone call.


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