Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Sedensky’s Preliminary Report And The Sandy Hook Shroud Of Secrecy

Danbury State’s Attorney Stephen Sedensky released on Monday a 40 page preliminary report on the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings. He has promised to release the full report numbering 2,000 pages sometime or other, perhaps in May. Release of the full report has now been twice delayed.

What, some people now are wondering, is the purpose of the preliminary report? There are no shockers in the document. Very little of the released information, now certified as correct by the preliminary report, can be construed as adversely affecting a prosecution, and indeed the preliminary report confirms that prosecutions were unlikely months ago:

“It is the conclusion of this State’s Attorney that the shooter acted alone and was solely criminally responsible for his actions of that day.  Moreover, none of the evidence developed to date demonstrates probable cause to believe that any other person conspired with the shooter to commit these crimes or aided and abetted him in doing so.
“Unless additional–and at this time unanticipated–evidence is developed, there will be no state criminal prosecution as result of these crimes.”

That datum, and other certified information in the preliminary report, might have been useful to the General Assembly that wrote a gun restriction bill in the absence of the authoritative data such a report might contain. That watershed moment passed long ago. The preliminary report is, among other things, Mr. Sedensky’s attempt to shape an understanding of the full report, when it is released.

The issuance of the criminal report has been a long time coming. One underwhelmed former Editorial Page Editor of a prominent Connecticut paper noted after she had read the preliminary report, “Little in this report is new. My prediction: State's attorney Sedensky will redact so much from the final report that it will look like Morse Code. Why has he insisted on secrecy, fought to keep the 911 tapes secret, and taken longer to issue this report than it took the Warren Commission to report on the JFK's murder?”

We are at the point of memorializing the first year anniversary of the Sandy Hook massacre. A year is a long time to wait for an authorized report on a mass slaying. Mr. Sedensky has consistently stated that a full and authorized account of the crime has been delayed because of “an ongoing investigation.” Now that the preliminary report has been brought out of the closet, it may appear to some people that Mr. Sedensky’s explanation was a dodge rather than a reason.

Other police spokesmen have said, much earlier in the investigation, that no future prosecutions were to be expected. There are few direct witnesses to the crime. Adam Lanza, the shooter, was a very thorough mass murderer. Mr. Sedensky’s report confirms he was a single shooter. On the face of it, it would seem there never was anyone to investigate. Mr. Lanza committed suicide, removing himself from the possibility of a prosecution interview. His victims have all died.

Governor Dannel Malloy is a former prosecutor, and even he was beginning to show signs of impatience more than a week before the release of Mr. Sedensky’s preliminary report. Mr. Malloy told reporters in Farmington on November 12, “I’m frustrated that the report has not yet been issued.”

The governor was careful to put some distance between himself and Mr. Sedensky. State attorneys, Mr. Malloy pointed out, are attached to the division of criminal justice, an independent executive branch agency. “So that people understand this,” Mr. Malloy said, “they don’t work for me. So I’ll put it a different way: if they did, this report would be out already. I'm anxious to get this report out to the public, out to you folks," Mr.Malloy told the assembled reporters. "That's what I'm anxious about."

The governor, as well as legislators who did not have available to them a preliminary report when they wrote laws putatively designed to forestall future murderous assaults on Connecticut schools, should insist that the reasons for the unaccountable delay of the full report should be included by Mr. Sedensky in the final full report.

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