Delay in releasing New London rape information questioned

New London - City Council President Michael Passero said there was a time in the not-too-distant past when City Council members were kept informed by the city administration of major happenings in the city.

In the wake of a sexual assault in the downtown area that was first reported three days after the incident and was never formally reported to the council, Passero is calling for change.

He said media outlets have referred to the assault as a violent stranger rape, and information should have been released to both the council and citizens immediately.

"If that didn't happen, the administration has to get to the bottom of why it didn't happen. If there was a breakdown in protocol, we need to know what they're doing to correct it," Passero said Thursday. "I think at this point, somebody from the administration is going to have to come to the council and explain the situation. With the new form of government, we know nearly nothing, and we have to learn about it in the paper."

The sexual assault was reported to have occurred at about 1:30 a.m. on July 20 in an alleyway off Bank Street.

In a statement, Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio said any assertion that information was deliberately withheld by his office is untrue.

"All dissemination of information in this case has been handled directly by the New London Police Department and an internal review is ongoing within the department to assess how the information was released and to ascertain if any errors were made," Finizio said.

New London Police Deputy Chief Peter Reichard explained that the decision on whether or not to release information about any ongoing investigation is typically taken on a case-by-case basis.

He said he made the decision, in conjunction with investigators, not to immediately release details because of the sensitive nature of the case and the fact that it is an active, ongoing investigation. With any investigation, Reichard said the release of information could help or hinder investigators by alerting suspects and causing them to flee.

Reichard said the mayor's office had nothing to do with release of information.

"They don't control what we release from the police department," Reichard said.

Reichard said there were initially several suspects being considered, but they were later ruled out. Once they were ruled out, he said he sent out a statewide notification to other law enforcement agencies with a description of the suspect.

The description was released to The Day last week in response to a request for more information on the incident.

The suspect is described as a bald, overweight dark-skinned black man in his 40s, about 5 feet, 10 inches tall, who was wearing a white T-shirt and dark sweat pants. The man had no visible tattoos or scars and was reported to have foul body odor.

Detectives are still working the case, Reichard said, and physical evidence was recovered from the scene and from the victim. He said DNA evidence was submitted to the state crime lab - something that can help rule out or convict a suspect.

While Reichard said he believed it was an isolated incident, he said residents should always be aware of their surroundings when walking the streets late at night. He also recommended walking with others and parking or walking in well-lit areas.

Passero said he expects a conversation to continue at Monday's council meeting.

g.smith@theday.com

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