New London officer Nott pleads not guilty to assault charges
New London police Officer Deana Nott walked through a courtroom packed with family and friends Thursday to face a judge on a charge that she struck a handcuffed prisoner in the face with her closed fist as he sat in the back seat of a police cruiser on June 22, 2016.
Arriving at the courthouse, the 50-year-old Waterford resident and 17-year veteran of the New London Police Department was greeted by a group of fellow officers who carried signs saying, "In this family, no one fights alone," "We would rather be judged by 12 than carried by 6" and "Sometimes there is justice. Sometimes there is Just us."
Dressed in black, she stood before Judge Ernest Green Jr. for about a minute as her attorney, Elliot B. Spector, entered a not-guilty plea on her behalf. Assistant State's Attorney Kevin Shay, from the Statewide Prosecution Bureau of the Chief State's Attorney's Office, said the case is being transferred to the Geographical Area 9 in Middletown. The court cases of people who do business regularly in a local courthouse often are transferred to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest. Her next court date is Feb. 22.
Nott has been under investigation since a lieutenant at police headquarters noticed that 37-year-old Adonis Smith, arrested following a domestic disturbance, had a bloody lower lip. Smith said he had been struck by an officer, and a review of video from the incident, captured on a backseat cruiser camera, showed Nott striking him in the face and telling him to "Cry about it."
At the police station, Smith declined an offer of medical attention and said he didn't want to make a complaint, according to court documents. Interviewed later by an inspector for the state's attorney's office, he said he had not been asked if he wanted to make a complaint.
The police department conducted an internal investigation, determined Nott had used excessive force, and suspended her for a week. Police Chief Peter Reichard said last week that the department considers the case closed, though it is cooperating with the chief state's attorney's office.
Spector, Nott's attorney, confirmed that she was given the option, and refused, to resign from her job rather than be prosecuted during the investigation that led to her arrest. Spector declined to comment further.
Nott, interviewed by The Day for a series of stories on women police officers in 2015, said she had "the best job in the world." She admitted she is physical on the job, where she said she had been spit on, kicked and bitten, had jumped on people's backs and thrown punches. She spoke also of providing homeless people and, sometimes, suspects with food and clothing and taking in children whose mothers were unable to care for them.
She remains on active duty. Last month, she was the first person on the scene of a homicide. The 27-year-old victim, Travon Brown, called her by her nickname, "Notts," and told her the name of his alleged killer as he was dying, according to court documents.
Nott had a previous arrest stemming from an off-duty dispute with a man at Sunset Ribs restaurant in 2008. In that case, she slapped a man in the face, leaving him with a scratch on his right cheek, after he confronted somebody at her table. Charged with breach of peace and suspended from duty, she eventually was granted accelerated rehabilitation and the case was dismissed. Accelerated rehabilitation generally is available only one time to criminal defendants.
Among her supporters in the courtroom gallery Thursday were her husband, city firefighter Joseph Nott, her older children, her siblings and friends of her late parents, Joseph and Pat San Juan. Nott's father retired as a lieutenant from the Waterford Police Department, then worked for many years as a judicial marshal. Her younger brother, Joseph San Juan Jr., is a sergeant with the East Lyme police.
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