Prosecutor promoted to supervisor at New London courthouse

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New London prosecutor David J. Smith, who for the past decade has been prosecuting men and women charged with murder and other major crimes, has been promoted to supervisory assistant state's attorney at the courthouse known as Geographical Area 10.

Effective May 12, Smith will be moving from the Huntington Street courthouse, known as Part A, to the courthouse up the hill on Broad Street to supervise the busy office that prosecutes misdemeanors, motor vehicle violations and some felonies.

New London State's Attorney Michael L. Regan selected Smith from a pool of five internal candidates who vied for the position left vacant by the April 28 retirement of Supervisory Assistant State's Attorney Michael L. Kennedy. Three of the applicants, including Smith, came from within the New London Judicial District.

"I wanted to promote somebody from within the Judicial District because that person would be more familiar with local issues and local law enforcement," Regan said. "Out of the three people who applied from within the Judicial District, I felt Mr. Smith has the best skillset for the position of supervisor. All the applicants were seasoned attorneys with exceptional prosecutorial skills. I felt that Dave had the personality required to be a supervisor."

Due to budgetary concerns, the position that Smith is vacating is unlikely to be filled anytime soon.

"There will be a new reality within the criminal justice system once the budget is finalized," Regan said. "We're going to have to make do with less personnel."

Smith, 50, worked for two years as a prosecutor in Sarasota, Fla., before starting his Connecticut prosecutorial career in 1999 at the New London Judicial District's other lower-level court, GA21 in Norwich.

During an interview Thursday, Smith said he was excited to return to a court that handles less serious crimes. He plans to start his new assignment by speaking with staff to see how things are working.

"I've been very lucky to be in Norwich and have Tom (Thomas) Griffin as supervisor and to come here and work with Mr. Regan and the other attorneys," Smith said. "They have helped shape me and guide me, and hopefully I'll be able to use that experience to guide GA10."

At the Part A court, Smith prosecuted several high-profile cases, including the 2015 stabbing death of 25-year-old Casey Chadwick of Norwich by Jean Jacques. He worked with his longtime office mate and friend Stephen M. Carney on the case of Dickie Anderson, who was convicted in 2012 of murdering Renee Pellegrino in Waterford on June 25, 1997. He prosecuted Allen James, who was convicted of killing his young son and carrying his remains in a suitcase for several years, and in 2015 worked with prosecutor Paul J. Narducci to win convictions for two men charged with killing Todd Thomas in New London nine years earlier.

In the courtroom, Smith exudes confidence and is quick to say, "The state is ready to try the case" when a defense attorney calls his bluff.

"He is a great trial attorney who never gets flustered," Carney said. Having worked with him in Norwich and shared a small office with him since they both transferred to the major crimes court, Carney said he knows Smith well and knows he will be a great supervisor at GA10.

"In Norwich I saw him work with pro se defendants in unfortunate circumstances," Carney said. "He was always respectful and approachable."

Smith thinks his life experiences have given him an understanding of the cases he and his staff will be handling at the Broad Street courthouse — cases he says often involve people who are not necessarily bad people but are caught up in bad situations. He was born in Los Angeles to an African-American father and white mother. His father, Joseph C. Smith, was a musician known as Sonny Knight, and the family relocated to Hawaii after the father traveled there with Dick Clark's Caravan of Stars.

His parents divorced soon after the move, Smith said, and he, his mother and older brother were homeless for several years. Tensions with the police had been high in L.A., but in Hawaii, he remembers a kind sergeant who would check on the family and give him candy and encourage him to pursue a legal career. He also had a lawyer friend in Maui who left an impression.

"I always thought I'd be a lawyer," he said. "I liked to speak and give my opinions."

Smith inherited musical talent, playing trumpet and traveling to Europe with his high school band, but said he wanted a different lifestyle. He attended the University of Oregon and received a bachelor's degree in English. He was working as a custodian at an Oregon elementary school and saving money to attend law school when he met his future wife, who was from Norwalk. He was accepted into the College of William and Mary Law School and graduated in 1997.

He and his wife married during his third year in law school and have two daughters.

k.florin@theday.com

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