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    Sunday, July 21, 2024

    East Lyme police chief’s domestic violence case transferred to Middletown court

    In this file photo, East Lyme Police Chief Michael Finkelstein talks with officers during roll call in July 2017. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    East Lyme Police Chief Michael Finkelstein, charged in connection with a domestic dispute with his wife that allegedly turned physical, had his case transferred out of the New London County Judicial District on Tuesday.

    The case was shifted to Middletown Superior Court, where Finkelstein is due to appear on Monday on charges of disorderly conduct and second-degree breach of peace.

    Finkelstein, who was placed on paid administrative leave following his June 5 arrest, was not in New London Superior Court on Tuesday. Finkelstein’s lawyer, John J. Nazzaro, explained to Judge Patrick Caruso that Finkelstein is undergoing in-patient counseling. He declined to discuss any specifics of that counseling but said Finkelstein had checked himself in and it was “stress-related.”

    The reason for the transfer to Middletown was not discussed in court on Tuesday, but cases involving police officers are often moved to another judicial district to avoid conflicts.

    State police arrested Finkelstein, 53, after they were called to his home on Marion Drive in East Lyme to investigate an alleged fight that left his wife with a bloody nose and bruised chest.

    Town to launch internal investigation

    On Tuesday night after meeting in executive session with the Board of Police Commissioners, First Selectman Dan Cunningham said he will be calling for an internal investigation of the incident.

    “I think I have no choice, really. I’ll have to request one,” he said.

    He declined to comment on the scope or timeline of the investigation, or who would carry it out.

    “We’re going to follow the process. We’re going to let it take its course, let the chips fall where they may,” he said. “And we’re going to respect the presumption of innocence and we will make sure that there is a chain of command at the police force and emergency management.”

    Finkelstein is also director of emergency management.

    Board of Police Commissioners Chairman Dan Price said Tuesday night the board has oversight of hiring, firing and discipline of all officers. He said Finkelstein as chief is beholden to the commissioners in his capacity as an officer and to the selectmen in his role as a department head.

    “It’s an ongoing investigation,” he said. “We are following all of the rules very carefully to make sure everybody is treated fairly.”

    Lt. Mike Macek was appointed acting chief on June 4 by the police commission. Deputy Emergency Management Director Julie Wilson was appointed acting director by selectmen on June 5.

    In the affidavit for his arrest warrant, Finkelstein’s wife told police Finkelstein had struck her on the night of June 3 following an argument. She later told police her bloody and possibly broken nose happened after she hit herself with Finkelstein’s work phone while she and Finkelstein were tugging on it. Finkelstein released it and it hit her in the face, she told police.

    Finkelstein’s wife said Finkelstein had been drinking on what was supposed to be the couple’s date night and she was looking through his work cell phone. Finkelstein’s wife told police that Finkelstein “thought she attempted to call one of his co-workers who he allegedly had an affair with some time ago,” the arrest warrant affidavit states.

    Finkelstein’s wife called East Lyme Police the next morning. She initially told officers that Finkelstein was “enraged” and struck her in the face, put his hands around her throat “which she stated he had done before,” and threw his cell phone at her, striking her in the chest. She later changed her statement, telling police it was accidental. She had slept on the couch that night, she told police, and decided to contact police in the morning.

    Can’t go to his home

    A protective order prevents Finkelstein from going to the home where he lives with his wife and four children. He has applied for a modification, or elimination of that order and submitted an affidavit from his wife to the court indicating she wants Finkelstein back home.

    In the request to modify the protective order, the wife reiterates what she told police about the incident in her second statement ― that it was accidental ― and that she has a medical condition “which frequently causes nose bleeds which are difficult to stop.”

    “Mike wants his family to be together. His being away has made things absolutely devastating for our children and me,” Finkelstein’s wife states in the affidavit.

    Nazzaro said Finkelstein and his wife plan to seek family counseling.

    Finkelstein is a retired Ledyard police officer and former mayor of Ledyard who was hired as East Lyme’s first police chief in 2017.

    g.smith@theday.com

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