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    Saturday, February 04, 2023

    OPINION: Investigate judge who hid details of a rich Greenwich woman’s sex crimes

    The case of Hadley Palmer, a very rich Greenwich socialite accused of pursuing sexual gratification by secretly spying on people, including a minor, at her waterfront mansion, is certainly great tabloid fodder.

    Indeed, Palmer’s recent sentencing to one year in jail on three counts of voyeurism and one of risk of injury to a minor, made lots of national headlines in the usual places, from the New York Post to People.

    But no one knows exactly how despicable the crimes she committed may have been because Superior Court Judge John Blawie, who initially sealed her criminal file earlier this year, kept it under lock and key during the recent sentencing and, because of his orders, forever after.

    Blawie said in a long, case-rich explanation of his sealing decision earlier in the year, that it was done to protect privacy of the victims in the case, not the rich criminal.

    Sorry, I find that hard to believe. The criminal benefits enormously. Victims could have been protected with redactions.

    Sealing the details of a criminal case is extraordinary and rare, and Blawie’s decision has produced some howls of protest from open government advocates.

    The Associated Press objected, in a court motion that Blawie batted aside.

    This decision sets a horrible, indefensible precedent for a court system that is supposed to be open to the public and blind to things like the race, age, wealth and social station of people accused of crimes.

    The notion that the details of a hideous offense, corrupting a minor in the pursuit of sexual pleasure, would be hidden from public view is unacceptable but especially alarming since the crime was committed by such a wealthy individual, the daughter and husband of moguls in Connecticut finance.

    No one seals the cases of poor criminals accused of despicable behavior.

    To make maters worse, according to the Associated Press, there was a time when Palmer’s case wasn’t even routinely listed on the Judicial Department’s web site. AP said the department fixed the issue but didn’t have an explanation for it.

    I reached out to ask Judge Blawie to explain his sealing decision, an offer he declined through a Judicial Department spokesperson.

    I would hope that the state Judicial Review Council would review the judge’s decision since it reflects so horribly on the judicial system, suggesting there are two tiers of justice in Connecticut.

    The council can sanction the judge.

    It appears anyone can file a complaint with the council. I hope some lawmaker might step up and move for an investigation. The judge should at least be made to answer questions about whether he has any association with the wealthy woman he is shielding from public embarrassment.

    A copy of the complaint form is on my desk. Maybe I’ll have to fill it out myself.

    I’d certainly rather see a legislative committee take up the matter.

    Judge Blawie said in his lengthy sealing decision that it was not possible to protect the victims with redactions, as is routinely done in similar criminal cases.

    I find that hard to believe. You can redact a lot and still leave a lot. Even if most of the documents have to be redacted, it is possible to at least show an effort at transparency.

    Certainly the basic details of the crime could be made public without revealing details that would identify the victims.

    That’s something an investigation by the judicial council could and should determine.

    Lawmakers need to pay attention, too, and make sure the authority responsible for reviewing judges does its work.

    Connecticut needs to avoid the obvious conclusion here, that the system supports two tiers of justice, one for the rich and one for the rest of us.

    This is the opinion of David Collins

    d.collins@theday.com

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