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WTIC Morning Show
With Ray Dunaway And Diane Smith

Aug. 26, 2002, 9:07 a.m.
Hartford, CT CBS affiliate 1080 AM

Teaser: Andy Thibault is a columnist for Law Tribune Newspapers. He has written a new book which essentially rips the lid off the practice of law in Connecticut, Law And Justice In Everyday Life - dirty cops, political hacks, inept judges, bureaucratic inertia - on the other side, the good guys. And Andy Thibault will give us the score in just a few minutes on WTIC News Talk 1080.


RD - Andy Thibault is someone we have talked to any number of times on this program. We've probably had Andy on 5, 6 times.

DS - I would guess, yeah. Andy is a guy that you might have called in the old days a muckraker. Andy has a penchant for finding trouble and then trying to do something about it, which has made him a hero to a lot of people because Andy tends to go where others fear to tread. Often these days that means taking on the legal system in Connecticut because he writes a column for [Law Tribune Newspapers]. And now a number of his columns have been put together in a book. And I'll tell you what, if you want to get scared about what goes on in Connecticut but also inspired, this is the book to read. It's called Law And Justice In Everyday Life, by Andy Thibault. Good morning, Andy.

AT - Hi Diane, how are you?

DS - I'm good, thank you, and you're keeping a low profile for the next few weeks?

AT - Well, I walk down the street and talk to my dogs and take my kids places.

DS - Because the truth is, Andy, some of these columns have stirred people up, they've also gotten some results for people who were wronged by the justice system.

AT - Well, if you talk to anybody, regular people, a lot of people have been given the shaft by not just the court system, but by any government entity. They go to town hall, they want a document, they're treated like lepers, or they're scared when they walk into a courtroom - sometimes for good reason. Good reason?

DS -- Because why, Andy?

AT - Many times the deck is stacked. You have to fight the deck in any number of ways which could include having a lot of money, having a great lawyer, maybe for whatever reason the judge likes or respects your lawyer.

RD - Andy, that's a good question. How many people, a lot of times if you're facing some sort of criminal charge, the fact is hiring the right lawyer, a lawyer that's connected, can make a lot of difference.

AT - It can make the difference between a life in prison or walking the street.

RD - We like to think of the law as this kind of impartial thing where the judge is sitting there, but the fact of the matter is being connected is not a bad thing if you're practicing law.

AT - Sure. And I must say there are many fair, straight-down-the-line judges, prosecutors who  while maybe not impartial, try very hard to do the right thing and do the right thing. I even have some judges who are heroes of mine. Not too many. But a few.

DS - And the interesting thing is there is probably no greater champion of cops than you are, but there are some dirty cops and when you find them you show no mercy. I feel that's appropriate, but a lot of people are afraid to take these people on.

AT - Bad cops have no sense of humor.

DS - You've found out oh so many times.

AT - But I greatly admire, for the most part, the Connecticut State Police, and even people in many local departments. But they all have their problems. If you come upon the facts, it's your duty to do something about it.

RD - Gee, here's an interesting transcript from the Diane Smith Morning Show. My goodness, I didn't know I worked here.

AT - You were on vacation again, Ray.

RD - It was actually a year ago, I was on vacation.

AT - On the other occasion it's (title of show, The Ray Dunaway Morning Show With Diane Smith) printed properly.

RD - I know it is. Hey, Andy, seriously, let's talk about some of the things you do get into in this book. This goes back to the point Diane made a few minutes ago, about you do cover cops and things of that sort. You did something on Brian Aselton, for example.

AT - Yeah, I mean, Geez, what a crazy place that dispatch center. They get a call and people are doing crossword puzzles or they say, "That guy's a nerd anyway," and he's dying. So there was a pretty good investigation of the East Hartford Police Department dispatch center. And maybe if the dispatch center was operating properly Officer Aselton would still be alive.

DS - That's not the first time that a dispatch center has been really the source of a problem. More frequently, it's the citizens who are on the losing ends because the dispatch center isn't operating properly, and not a police officer. In that case, by all accounts, it happened to be a young terrific cop who lost his life.

AT - There's another dispatch case that bothers me, I think about it often. A woman in Middletown is going through a divorce and she calls for help. The cops are very slow to respond. I listened to the tape. But they show up before or after to see if the dog's OK. As I recall, I think her estranged husband was a firefighter. So all politics and law enforcement are local.

DS - One of the cases you have been following for a long time, I guess goes back to the days when you were a reporter out in the New London area, for The New London Day? Tell us a little bit about that one. How many years have you been working on that one?

AT --  Well, I guess close to 30 years. However, I worked for The Norwich Bulletin. The New London Day covered up the story.

DS - I'm sorry.

AT - It was the cover-up of the hit-and-run death of Kevin Showalter, 11:12 p.m. Christmas Eve 1973 on a clear [night] and well-lit street with a witness 6-feet away who saw nothing. Basically, the prime suspect, Harvey Mallove, was a very nice guy, a great guy to have a beer with, I could say to him, "Mr. Mallove, this is what's in the paper tomorrow." He'd say, "I understand, but I didn't kill the kid in any way, shape or form." But his best friend, Judge Angelo Santaniello, controlled that investigation. He was the administrative judge for the county. As I report in these columns and in the book, Harvey attended a few parties that night, one of them at the home of Judge Santaniello's political godfather, Peter Mariani, and it's very likely that Harvey would not have gone there on his own. Judge Santaniello once called my boss and said, "I never go out on Christmas Eve," but we never asked him.

RD - This is really a trip down memory lane, Andy. I'm enjoying this, including the Stonington High School story.

AT  -- Oh boy, that's a terrible story.

RD - That was the one, do you remember this, they were coming in to recruit kids to work at a local fast food joint and of course there was an assembly and a kid got up, some kids were asking rather uncomfortable questions of the folks who were recruiting. Apparently, one of them got smacked pretty good for it.

AT - Yeah, gee, inquisitive students who want to learn. We've got to stop that. The Stonington Public School System is noted for trying to teach subservience. They had a kid who had some questions about what's in French Fries for McDonald's. He was punished severely in any number of ways. There was no basis in law for what they did. If it was my kid, I'd own that school system.

RD - Apparently the kid had to get up and apologize over the PA, essentially for asking the question.

AT - He was coerced to apologize, he was ridiculed, he was treated like crap for [acting like] a U.S. citizen by everybody on up from the disciplinarians in the high school to the superintendent. It's disgraceful.

RD - I notice you also get into the little deal that's become somewhat of an issue in the current campaign, and of course that is the CRRA deal.

AT - Yeah, that's a barrel of laughs. The way they threw that money away.

RD - You also mention Joe Ganim, he looms large here, we have, you're pretty much into everybody in this thing.

DS - Including some people like Mia Farrow and Woody Allen. Tell us a little bit about that. This is from 1997, and the column is called Woody, Mia and Frank Maco.

AT - That was actually printed in Connecticut Magazine, but it detailed the criminal complaint against Woody Allen and the acts he was accused of committing on his 7-year-old [adoptive] daughter. Some of them I can't even say on the radio, but thankfully Connecticut Magazine printed them. Basically, Yale, you think Yale must mean quality, but they botched the investigation. They failed to meet standard norms for interviewing a kid in that kind of situation.

DS - And Yale was involved because of its Childhoold

AT - Child Study Team. A very bad joke. They interviewed the kid 9 times. They said, well, there's some inconsistencies. She said it clearly that he did it 3 times and then there are variations. The kid said, oh, "My mom has dead heads in the attic," so they said she has magical thinking and fantasies. Well, her mom had wigs in her attic. It was pathetic. It was a model case for how to screw up an investigation.

RD - Andy, after all these years of writing, are you still optimistic to a degree.

AT - There are a lot of good people out there trying to do the right thing. A lot of good cops,  but if citizens are not vigilant, we all get the shaft.

RD - Is that part of the reason you did this compilation of stories.

AT - Well, I can't sing or dance Ray, I've got to do something.

DS - One of the things that people who know you know about you, and you talk about citizens have to be vigilant, you've filed probably more than any one individual I know Freedom of Information complaints or requests because you deeply believe in open government and that people ought to be there observing what goes on and keeping track of our lawmakers as well as judges and police officers and the bureaucracy.

AT - Sure, who owns these documents? We own them. The town officials are the mere custodians. And they act like this is their precious gold that you can't touch, well, that's our property  they should just give it out.

DS  -- Andy, in the book, as Ray points out, there are a lot of examples of injustice. But you also take the opportunity to praise some of the people you think are doing a good job. Why don't we take it out on that note, with some of the people that you see as the heroes in the system in our state.

AT - Well, there's a real tough prosecutor, John Massameno, that people think is a maniac. Well, the defense lawyers, do. There's one good case where Massameno went head to head with Jon Schoenhorn, a very tough and good Hartford defense attorney. It was about an abuse case. It involved the rights of the accused. Of course, Massameno was very creative. He drives defense lawyers nuts because they're usually the creative ones. They walked out and they got some level of justice regarding the status of a criminal. He paid his price to some degree and he maintained his constitutional rights as well. That's a good example of the system working. One of my heroes, forever, is Justice Dannehy, retired from the state Supreme Court, out of Willimantic, he's got kids, one, a son, is a judge, the other, a daughter, is a tough federal prosecutor. There's a person of integrity and compassion. They think he's a hard guy, but underneath he's a real softie.

DS - I'd like to think those people outnumber the others, and I guess you would agree with that for sure.

AT - Well, I'm not sure. I know there's a lot of good people trying to do the right thing. Like at any job, there's a lot of people taking up space and watching their behinds grow and that's how they advance.

RD - When you were growing up as a young guy, who were your heroes.

AT - Mickey Mantle.

RD - I mean in literature.

AT - John Steinbeck and Jimmy Breslin, Leo Connellan the late Poet Laureate. And Howard Zinn, the guy who wrote my introduction was my professor at B.U. Incredible, humble person. He wrote a book about a Supreme Court decision called Nine Fallacies On Law And Order, and I thought, well, that's a cool guy.

DS - Sounds like he influenced your thinking for a long time, Andy.

AT - Yeah, he turned my world upside down.

RD - Where do we find this book, Andy.

AT - Locally, in West Hartford there's The Bookworm, but any Barnes & Noble or Borders or Amazon.com, all the traditional routes. Some stores have it quicker than others. Baker & Taylor and Ingram, the distributors, sometimes have a slow train, sometimes have a quick train. But you can get it at any bookstore.

DS - Well, Andy, we appreciate you joining us for a while, and we do appreciate that weekly column and how you keep on crusading for everyday folks. The book is called Law And Justice In Everyday Life, by Andy Thibault, I'm going to spell the last name in case you're at the book store.

RD - Good idea.

DS - It's T-h-i-b-a-u-l-t. Andy Thibault. So thanks for being with us, Andy, good luck.

AT - Thank you, Diane, thank you, Ray.

RD - Good to talk with you. It's 9:21 on WTIC.

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