NORWALK, Conn. – Republican State Senate candidate Marc D’Amelio says a 2014 arrest has been removed from his legal record and is only surfacing now because of political opponents.
D’Amelio, who is seeking to unseat State Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff (D-25), contends publication of his arrest is injurious to his reputation, and his attorney has threatened to sue NancyOnNorwalk if it reports the incident.
NancyOnNorwalk has obtained a copy of the police report, which alleges that D’Amelio drove under the influence with his 9-year-old daughter in the front seat and states that he was charged with risk of injury to a minor and driving under the influence. NoN also has obtained a transcript for a court hearing in which D’Amelio was granted Accelerated Rehabilitation, a diversionary program for first-time offenders which can lead to expungement of charges.
Officer Garret Kruger wrote in the Jan. 11, 2014 report that he and another officer observed a black BMW parked on the corner of Raymond and South Main Streets; the vehicle made a U-turn on South Main Street and headed south, crossing into the northbound lane five times and once almost striking the opposite curb.
The officers stopped the BMW at about 2:30 a.m., and D’Amelio “jumped out” and walked toward their patrol car, according to the report. He was told to get back in the car, and officers observed his 9-year-old daughter in the front seat, and three men in the back.
Driving under the influence with a child in the car is considered Risk of Injury to a Minor, according to multiple sources.
D’Amelio said he was in South Norwalk passing out money he had won at the Mohegan Sun Casino to “teach his daughter a lesson about giving to the unfortunate,” Kruger wrote. D’Amelio also said the three passengers were strangers he had met at a corner store and offered a ride home.
D’Amelio agreed to take Standardized Field Sobriety tests. He told officers that he had Parkinson’s Disease, which would inhibit some of his physical movements, according to the report. D’Amelio could not perform many of the requirements of the test and at 3:23 a.m. blew a .1178 on his first breath test. A second test at 3:44 a.m. showed .1165, Kruger wrote.
Connecticut State Statute specifies that adults are driving under the influence of alcohol if blood alcohol level is .08 or higher.
Kruger’s 2014 report states that a report of child abuse and neglect was filed with the Department of Children and Families (DCF).
One of the three men in the back seat was on parole and had been “arrested numerous times for narcotics and was arrested on August 25, 2005 for a shooting,” Kruger wrote.
The state judicial website shows that two of the three men in the backseat have been convicted for multiple offenses.
One of the men has nine convictions on charges that include assault third degree and possession of narcotics, and a December 2013 burglary charge. The other has six convictions, including charges of selling narcotics and larceny.
NancyOnNorwalk called D’Amelio for comment on Sept. 6.
“I have to talk about my lawyer about that,” D’Amelio said, when told NancyOnNorwalk had a report and intended to write a story.
“I have never been convicted of a crime, and you know what’s going on right now,” he said. “I do not have a police record, and have not been convicted of a crime. This is what you know it is. It’s ‘the Senate Majority Leader knows he’s vulnerable,’ and it is what it is. I’ll stand by what I said. I do not have a police record. They want to dig things up.”
Duff did not respond to an email asking about D’Amelio’s allegation.
D’Amelio’s lawyer responds
Attorney Mark Sherman contacted NoN on Sept. 7 and said the arrest and charges were dismissed, erased and expunged in March 2016. He argued that publication therefore constituted libel. By law, publication of true statements is not libel.
On Sept. 25, NoN emailed D’Amelio and Sherman, advised that NoN planned to post a story Monday, and asked if D’Amelio and/or Sherman wanted to comment verbally or send a statement.
On Sept. 27, Sherman sent this email:
“On behalf of Marc D’Amelio, I’m providing the following response—w/ the hyper-link:
“Mark Sherman, D’Amelio’s Stamford criminal lawyer, confirmed that all charges against Mr. D’Amelio were dismissed and expunged by the Norwalk Superior Court. ‘The fact that police reports regarding a dismissed case were recently distributed to the media by the Norwalk Police Department is not only illegal but will be the subject of an Internal Affairs investigation, which we’ve asked the Connecticut State Police to handle.’”
Expungement “is a court-ordered process in which the legal record of an arrest or a criminal conviction is ‘sealed,’ or erased in the eyes of the law,” according to criminal.findlaw.com.
Source of the report
Before NancyOnNorwalk received any documents, two readers contacted NoN and said the public should know of D’Amelio’s arrest.
Shortly thereafter, NoN received by mail an envelope with a copy of the arrest report. The envelope, which had no return address, also contained a Jan. 12, 2014, news article from the Hour about the arrest, which tells the same story as the arrest report.
NoN also contacted the Norwalk Police Department and arranged to pick up a copy of the arrest report. The copy provided by Norwalk Police was heavily redacted, with nearly all mentions of driving under the influence blacked out. On Sept. 10, Norwalk Police Chief Thomas Kulhawik advised that the report was released in error, and asked that it be returned. NoN declined.
The reporting in this story is based entirely on the report which arrived by mail, which has far fewer redactions than the report provided by Norwalk Police.
Kulhawik on Sunday said he had not heard from the Connecticut State Police and had not requested their assistance.
The court transcript
D’Amelio’s wife, Heidi, was present in the court when D’Amelio was granted Accelerated Rehabilitation, the transcript obtained by NoN shows. DCF was not.
Heidi D’Amelio had no objection to the AR, the transcript states.
The aggravating circumstances were the presence of the 9-year-old in the car, Attorney Donna Krusinski is quoted as saying, and Wenzel replied that D’Amelio was looking at a C-class felony with the possibility of a 10-year sentence.
“If I may remind the Court, he pled to a reckless. Your Honor vacated it,” Sherman is quoted as saying. “He did do a year probation on the reckless before. Your Honor vacated it based on changes in the law, which we’re very grateful to.”
“It’s a difficult set of circumstances,” Wenzel is quoted as saying. “Obviously you’ve got to make your top priority the safety and welfare of your children and you need to make better decisions.”
“Biggest mistake of my life, sir,” D’Amelio replied.
“Well I’m hoping that’s the case and I’m hoping that from this point on you can use it as a way to learn,” Wenzel replied. “Everyone got lucky that time, okay?… let’s go with a nine-month period of AR on this new matter. That will bring us to March 25, 2016.”
D’Amelio slams Dems
On Sept. 29, a story appeared in The Hour detailing the arrest. The story quoted D’Amelio accusing Democrats of conspiring to provide NoN with a police report to damage him, and said that Republicans believed that Common Council member Doug Stern (D-At Large) had provided the court transcript.
NancyOnNorwalk did not receive the transcript from Stern, a Democrat who is running for Judge of Probate.
The transcript, first provided to NoN on Sept. 17, is available to the public by request. NoN contributor Harold Cobin went to the Norwalk courthouse on Oct. 2 and asked for records concerning D’Amelio. Cobin provided the clerk with D’Amelio’s name, birth date and address. The clerk said nothing came up in the computer because it was too old, and when he told her he wanted a transcript she sent him to the court reporter’s office, Cobin said.
“I showed her D’Amelio’s name on my notepad and she asked me who I was,” Cobin wrote in an email. “I said I was a reporter and she asked me to wait outside while she made a phone call. Then she called me back in and had me fill out a form to request a transcript.”
The transcript obtained by Cobin is identical to the one provided to NancyOnNorwalk on Sept. 17.
An open secret
Rumors of D’Amelio’s arrest were rampant in Fall 2017 when D’Amelio was running for the Board of Education. NancyOnNorwalk received word of a “whisper campaign” about it.
At the time, NancyOnNorwalk found one news story online about the arrest. The story no longer appears in search results.
D’Amelio’s race for Board of Education was unsuccessful; he placed fifth in the race for four seats amid a Democratic landslide.
D’Amelio announced in January that he would take on Duff, then quickly withdrew, then in April resumed the campaign.
Republican Town Committee Chair Mark Suda, who is also a Norwalk Police Officer, declined a request for comment.
NancyOnNorwalk has received reports of Facebook users mentioning the incident, and D’Amelio replying that the comments were libelous. “Whoa there. Let me get this straight. You have lawyers going after people on this page, a Facebook page for the Norwalk Community, for things they said against you?” a commenter wrote to D’Amelio.