Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Another Connecticut Political Prisoner for testing Free Speech?

CONNECTICUT NEWS
Krayeske Pleads Not Guilty
Activist Requests Jury Trial In Case Stemming From Arrest At Inaugural Parade
January 31, 2007
By JON LENDER, Courant Staff Writer

Political activist and free-lance journalist Kenneth Krayeske Tuesday entered a not-guilty plea, requested a jury trial and saw his court case continued until March - as a new witness surfaced to dispute Hartford police officers' account of events that led to his arrest Jan. 3 while taking pictures at Gov. M. Jodi Rell's inauguration parade.

"This man did not rush into the parade at Rell as the Hartford police have said," witness Marge Nichols of Lebanon said in a written statement that Krayeske's lawyer, Norman Pattis, gave reporters before his client's appearance in Hartford Superior Court on charges of breach of peace and interfering with police.

Pattis requested, and was granted, a pretrial conference March 2 with a prosecutor, to be supervised by a judge, to discuss possible resolutions of the case. Pattis told reporters the prosecution was uncooperative, adding that Assistant State's Attorney Mark W. Brodsky did not even want to read Nichols' statement during a short conference.

When Krayeske appeared briefly in court before Judge David P. Gold, Pattis said his client "appears to be being treated differently than any other protest case that I've had."

Pattis said later if the case goes to trial, "we'll get an acquittal."

He said he wants a judge's supervision at the next conference because "I don't want to get jerked around any more than I have to."

Hartford State's Attorney James E. Thomas responded that he doesn't want to "try these cases in the press" but "I obviously disagree with those comments." Thomas said the prosecutor "may have wanted more input" before discussing case resolution.

Krayeske and about 25 supporters began their morning by demonstrating for freedom of speech in front of the nearby state Supreme Court building.

Demonstrators included Krayeske's parents, Jim and Betty Ann Krayeske of Watertown. In December, Rell appointed Jim Krayeske chairman of the Connecticut Boxing Promotion Commission, which he had been a member of for years. Jim Krayeske said he hadn't talked to Rell and did not expect her to intervene.

Then Kenneth Krayeske trooped with his backers a few hundred yards to the Lafayette Street criminal courthouse.

Nichols, the witness, took Tuesday off from her job at a Hartford insurance company to be in court.

Nichols said in her statement that at the time of the arrest, she and her sister-in-law were "right next to Ken Krayeske ... on a small traffic island." An amateur photographer, Nichols said she "mainly became aware of his presence because I found myself admiring his long telephoto lens." She said if she'd brought her camera, "both he and I would have been doing exactly the same thing - standing there quietly taking photos of the parade."

Krayeske, 34, of Hartford, said he wanted the parade photos to post on his political commentary website, which has criticized Rell.

Nichols said that as Rell passed by, "she turned toward us, smiled, waved, and continued to our left. But at the same moment, this young man, still next to me on my right, was pulled behind us into a parking lot, searched, handcuffed and led away. My sister-in-law and I were very surprised and couldn't figure out what he'd done. ... I remember being impressed by how calmly he stood as he and his camera bag were being searched. He did not resist."

She said that "he was not doing anything illegal, unless there is a law that prohibits photographing parades." In a brief interview, Nichols said she is an average, independent voter and doesn't "know much about the Green Party," for which Krayeske was the 2006 gubernatorial campaign manager.

Krayeske's Green Party activity was listed on a two-page state police security flier that was prepared on him and handed to officers patrolling the parade route Jan. 3. The flier included two color driver's license photos of Krayeske, and its second page mentioned Krayeske's 2004 anti-war protest and his invitation on an Internet blog for others to join him in protesting outside Rell's inaugural ball.

A key legislative leader, Rep. Michael Lawlor, D-East Haven, judiciary committee co-chairman, said last week that the flier made Krayeske look like "public enemy No.1" and led to an overreaction by Hartford police - who arrested him about 1:20 p.m. and held him in custody, with bail set at $75,000, for 12 hours, until it was too late for Krayeske to appear outside Rell's ball.

State Public Safety Commissioner Leonard Boyle Monday wrote a report defending state police security preparations that included Krayeske among about 10 other individuals - the others not publicly identified - "who, because of prior actions or statements, warranted interest if they appeared at the day's events."

Boyle said the decision to arrest Krayeske Jan. 3 was solely the responsibility of the Hartford police. Last week, Hartford Police Chief Daryl K. Roberts said Krayeske was arrested because he "breached the parade route" - a charge that Krayeske and at least one other witness already had denied before Nichols surfaced Tuesday with her account.



A copy of witness Marge Nichols' letter and the Hartford police report of Krayeske's arrest is available at www.courant.com.



Contact Jon Lender at jlender@courant.com.

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