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Connecticut’s top prosecutor, deputy reappointed after questions about ‘tension’ in office

Chief State’s Attorney Richard Colangelo was reappointed Tuesday morning to continue serving as Connecticut’s top prosecutor and head of the state Division of Criminal Justice.

Colangelo has served as chief state’s attorney since his initial appointment in January 2020, when he replaced the retiring Kevin Kane after his 13 years in the top job, and will begin a full four-year term of his own after the Criminal Justice Commission’s unanimous vote at a special virtual meeting Tuesday.

“I love coming to work everyday, I love what I do as chief, I love what we’re doing at the division ... what a true team effort that it is, and that is something I’ve worked really hard to build,” Colangelo said.

Colangelo had previously served as Stamford/Norwalk state’s attorney, where he led several of the highest-profile cases in the state, including the case of missing New Canaan mother Jennifer Farber Dulos and whether to retry Michael Skakel after the state Supreme Court reversed his conviction in the 1975 murder of Martha Moxley. Colangelo was interviewed and selected for the chief’s post the same day Fotis Dulos, whom he had charged with Farber Dulos’ murder, was pronounced dead at a New York hospital after attempting suicide at his Farmington home.

Colangelo was selected at the time over three other finalists, including Deputy Chief State’s Attorney for Operations Kevin Lawlor, which caused enough tension in the division’s headquarters that it “rippled down” to the various prosecutors’ office and led to pointed questions from several commission members during the weekslong reappointment process. Commission member Reginald Dwayne Betts even referred to the tension as the “elephant in the room” and he and other commissioner members chastised Lawlor’s responses in previous interview sessions.

But both Colangelo and Lawlor emphasized Tuesday that they work well collaboratively now and an apologetic Lawlor insisted those tensions were in the past. After a 40-minute executive session, the commission voted unanimously to reappoint Lawlor as well.

“I think some of my answers were probably flippant and may have given you the incorrect impression that I am not enthusiastic about my position and being renominated here as the deputy chief,” Lawlor said Tuesday morning. “That couldn’t be farther from the truth and if I did give you that impression, I do sincerely and wholeheartedly apologize.

“I know that law enforcement and prosecution and the division of criminal justice are at a critical moment in time to affect the change that we all know needs to be done. I think we’re very lucky to have Chief State’s Attorney Colangelo in a position now to affect a lot of the change that both ... of us talked about when we applied for the position of chief state’s attorney. I want to be a part of that change.”

Both men will continue to lead one of the state agencies at the heart of the movement for criminal justice reform as high-profile police killings across the country, including in Connecticut, and advancing scholarship on mass incarceration prompt a litany of new laws at the state and federal levels.

Both have been involved in the creation of a new DCJ conviction integrity unit, which will examine possible wrongful convictions in the state. They also will be joined by the new inspector general, who will have a rank equivalent to another deputy state’s attorney and will independently investigate fatal police encounters across Connecticut.


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