The end of Thursday morning’s Criminal Justice Policy Advisory Commission was a love fest for Chief State’s Attorney Kevin Kane. Mere hours from retirement, Connecticut’s longest-serving head prosecutor listened as his colleagues gushed over his contributions during his nearly half-century career in the criminal justice system.
Two hours later, his office confirmed Kane would stay on for another 30 days to review Hartford State’s Attorney Gail Hardy’s unresolved investigations into five police shootings, first reported by the Hartford Courant.
According to the Courant, Hardy has yet to close several use-of-force probes stemming from police killing five men between March 2008 and April 2019. Of the state’s attorneys responsible for Connecticut’s 13 judicial districts, Hardy’s cases are the only open investigations that extend beyond 2019.
Kane’s decision follows a written request from Andrew McDonald, Supreme Court justice and chair of the Criminal Justice Commission, the agency tasked with appointing Kane’s replacement.
“While I realize that today is supposed to be your last day of work before you retire, I write to you with a request that you defer your retirement for 30 days,” McDonald wrote in the Oct. 31 letter before noting he asked Kane to review the pending police shooting investigations.
“I realize that it is impossible for you to complete that review and develop your report to the Commission by the close of business today,” McDonald wrote. “I know this request is a substantial intrusion on your plans, and I do not make it lightly. However, given the importance of the report, and your personal knowledge of some of the facts involved, you are an indispensable part of this review.”
McDonald said Kane’s extension will not affect the commission’s search for the next chief state’s attorney. The job was posted this week, McDonald said, giving those interested 30 days to apply before the commission reviews the submissions.
Kane has been the chief state’s attorney for 13 years. Every police shooting investigation on Hardy’s docket happened during Kane’s tenure.
“In my conversations with him, he indicated he had some familiarity with the underlying cases involved, so that can expedite the review process,” McDonald said.
Kane now has 30 days to complete his review, McDonald said, “And it may be produced and delivered to the commission sooner than that.”
The open cases awaiting Hardy’s review include the killings of Anthony Jose “Chulo” Vega Cruz, Joseph Bak, Taurean Wilson, Edmanuel Reyes and Ernesto Morales.
The ACLU of Connecticut issued a statement criticizing both Hardy and Kane for the unresolved cases.
“State’s Attorney Hardy’s lack of action in killings by police is inexcusable, and Chief State’s Attorney Kane’s failure to hold her accountable for her inaction has been completely irresponsible,” said ACLU of Connecticut Executive Director David McGuire. “Both problems show the need for a new Chief State’s Attorney who will dedicate themselves to police accountability. As this situation shows, Connecticut still needs a new Chief State’s Attorney who will vocally, actively pursue policies, procedures, and laws to hold police accountable.”
McGuire specifically called out Kane for assigning Hardy to investigate the 2019 killing of Vega Cruz, given Hardy’s inability to close the four cases already on her docket.
“Any report regarding Hardy’s inaction should also include a complete description of how the Division of Criminal Justice, under Kane’s watch, allowed these cases to go unresolved, so the Criminal Justice Commission and Connecticut’s next Chief State’s Attorney are able to take swift, thorough action to hold prosecutors accountable for their roles in pursuing justice for people killed and harmed by police,” McGuire said.