Charges upgraded as jury selection begins for woman at center of Gingerella homicide
State's attorneys filed additional charges Monday as jury selection began in New London Superior Court in the case of Latoya S. Knight, the woman at the center of the Dec. 11, 2016, shooting death of Joey Gingerella at Ryan's Pub in Groton.
Gingerella had been fatally shot by Dante Hughes when Gingerella attempted to stop Hughes from beating his longtime live-in companion, Knight, in the parking lot of the Poquonnock Road pub, according to court testimony and documents.
The state alleges Knight provided Groton Town Police with misleading information after the shooting and hindered them as they attempted to identify and locate the shooter.
Her trial is scheduled to begin Wednesday, Sept. 4, before a jury of six regular members and two alternates in the courtroom of Judge Barbara Bailey Jongbloed.
The 36-year-old mother of six from Groton initially had been charged with a single count of interfering with police, a misdemeanor offense punishable by up to a year in prison. Called to the witness stand at Hughes' trial in the summer of 2018, Knight insisted she was drunk that night and didn't remember the details of the crime.
Hughes was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to 45 years in prison.
As jury selection got underway Monday, prosecutor Paul J. Narducci added two felony counts of second-degree hindering prosecution, each of which carries a maximum prison term of 10 years.
Knight, warned by a judge that she now faces a maximum of 21 years in prison if convicted, confirmed she still isn't accepting a plea offer and wants to go forward with the trial.
The state had offered her the option of serving a year in prison for the interfering charge or, alternatively, pleading guilty to hindering prosecution and serving 90 days in prison followed by a period of probation.
Several of the witnesses who had testified at Hughes' trial are expected to testify at Knight's trial.
Police had stopped Knight, who is also known as "Tootie," as she tried to leave the scene of the 1:30 a.m. shooting. When they questioned her in her SUV at the scene, they said, she lied and told them a picture of Hughes from her phone was Justin Davenport of Norwich, who is Hughes' brother. They took her to police headquarters and questioned her during a recorded interview.
Two days later, with Hughes still at large, detectives interviewed Knight again after serving her with an arrest warrant charging her with interfering with the investigation by giving false information about Hughes' identity.
Her attorneys, Victoria A. Pells and Bruce Lorenzen, objected unsuccessfully Monday to the two added counts of hindering prosecution, which charge Knight with misleading police and preventing and delaying Hughes' capture.
Lorenzen argued that Knight is being treated differently than the "2, 3, or 4 male relatives of Hughes who provided him assistance after the crime and remain at liberty." Friends and relatives had testified at Hughes' trial that they helped him get a new phone, a haircut and a ride to Boston after the crimes. He was captured in Niagara Falls, N.Y., two days after the shooting as he attempted to walk across the Rainbow Bridge into Canada.
Lorenzen also argued it appears Knight is being punished by the state for exercising her right to a trial.
Narducci, who is prosecuting the case with attorney Christa L. Baker, said the hindering charge had been discussed prior to the trial and was part of one of the plea deals he had extended to Knight. He referenced Knight's testimony at Hughes' trial, which had been "filled with 'I don't knows' and 'I don't remembers,'" and said the state has the right to look at Knight's intent and to file additional charges.
Judge Jongbloed ruled in favor of the state and said she would be issuing a written decision at a later date.
Stories that may interest you
Firefighters cleared businesses for about 90 minutes in the area as a precaution.
The victim did not attend the sentencing hearing in New London Superior Court, but her mother spoke at length about the cost to the girl and their family for reporting the crime.