Fellowship of the Minds | 25 Feb 2016
Outstanding description by Tony Mead of what transpired at Wolfgang Halbig’s Connecticut Freedom of Information Commission hearing on Feb. 18. Here’s the takeaway summary:
“As one observes the blatant attempts by the State to confuse, obfuscate and delay the release of these documents, it becomes apparent to even the least informed that they obviously have something to hide. There is no justification for the continued efforts to delay the inevitable. If the Sandy Hook incident is a genuine mass murder, why not simply provide Wolfgang with the proof and have him move on? It should really be just that simple!”
Halbig’s “win” is in the admission by the FOI Commission that the dash cam videos (taken by state trooper vehicles parked in Sandy Hook Elementary School’s parking lot on the day of the alleged massacre) are part of the public record, instead of “evidence,” and therefore should be made available to Halbig. However, the State of Connecticut already is appealing that.
Recall that some dash cam videos had already been made public, none of which shows what should be hundreds of children being evacuated from the school. See my post “Sandy Hook hoax: Where were the 100s of students being evacuated?”.
Dash-Cam DVDs Deemed Public Records, Officials Pull Out Stops to Keep Docs Private
Facebook – Sandy Hook Hoax
On February 18, 2016, Wolfgang Halbig appeared in the CT FOIA Commission Hearing to continue his attempt to obtain public records from the Newtown PD and Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection, who are entrusted with the CT State Police report and are the holders of those records.
The Hearing begins and it becomes immediately apparent that Vincent Perpetua is much more rigid than Matthew Streeter (the previous hearing officer). This is a no nonsense, by the book, informed and educated attorney who seems to view Wolfgang and his attorney along with Christine Plourde (Legislative Manager and basically “gatekeeper” of DESPPP records) and her attorney with equally condescending disdain.
Kay Wilson explains to Perpetua that Wolfgang has been getting the “runaround” on his FOIA request for written police reports from both the Newtown PD and the DESPP as each refers him to the other agency. Newtown claims that they are NOT in possession of the records as the State Police were the “investigating agency”. Christine Plourde claims that the records are exempt from public disclosure as they are “signed witness statements”.
They were also seeking unaltered Dash Cam DVDs as they contend that the dash cam videos provided previously had been altered and did not contain embedded date and timestamped information.
I found it surprising that Perpetua did not wish to hear about Wolfgang Halbig’s background information. Wolfgang’s experience as a National Safety consultant grants him a standing in the pursuit of these records as it could aid him professionally in understanding the incident and in making recommendations for future safety considerations. One of the key contentions of the State in denying Ablechild access to Adam Lanza’s mental health records in their FOIA Hearing was that they were not a “stakeholder” and as such, had no legal right to these records. I spoke to Sheila Matthews of Ablechild and she feels that it’s “apples to oranges” as they are a 501C non-profit organization whereas Wolfgang, regardless of his professional background, is simply a member of the Public seeking Public Records.
Steven Barry, attorney for Christine Plourde, opens by stating that Miss Plourde will testify that the “witness statements” given by the Newtown PD, which are a part of the online CT State Police Report, are exempt from FOIA requests and that the “Newtown Police Report”, if there is one, will be in possession of the Town of Newtown”. Wait, What?!?!
That’s right folks, according to the DESPP, the Official CT State Police Report contains NO Newtown PD Officers reports, they are simply “witness statements”. Since when is a trusted servant, performing his duties as an employee of the public, who is a first responder at a mass casualty incident, considered to be a “Witness” ?!? That has to be one of the most ridiculous arguments that I have ever heard!
Mr. Barry then proceeds to explain that the Dash Cam DVDs are considered to be evidence and as such are exempt from FOIA requests. He fails to realize that once a case is closed, such as the Adam Lanza murder case, the “evidence” becomes “property” and is no longer exempt. This argument is also ridiculous as many Dash Cam videos have already been released to the Hartford Courant, Vincent Riccio, and even Sandy Hook Facts. Several of the CT State Police Dash Cam DVDs were released in the CT State Police Report itself. How can those be considered a matter of public record while Halbig has to undergo a tedious legal process to obtain Newtown’s?
Next, Barry goes on to say, “If there is a Newtown Police Report, the State is NOT in possession of it”. This leads us to believe that the “statements” contained in the CT State Police Report do NOT constitute Newtown Police Reports and that perhaps there is no Newtown Police Report even in existence. One of the most deadly mass casualty incidents in history, and the first responding agency has made NO REPORTS ?!?
Even Victor Perpetua is left shaking his head trying to understand this!
Kay Wilson next brings up the fact that the attached police reports given by the Newtown officers are actually redacted in the CT State Police Report. The redaction codes used to justify the redactions are 03 and 10. Redaction Code 03 is defined as “personell/medical/similar files/invasion of personal privacy” while redaction code 10 is defined as “signed statements of witnesses”. So, the contention is affirmed that the submitted reports by the Newtown Officers are considered to be witness statements. We will come back to this later.
As Kay Wilson attempts to outline the case she is continually interrupted by both the hearing officer, who really just wants to get to the point, and the opposing counsel who wants to object to anything and everything for some odd reason. He even objects to allowing the email exchange between Wolfgang and Plourde to be entered in as evidence citing it as “hearsay”. The email exchange shows how Plourde repeatedly kicked his requests to Newtown who then kicked it back to DEPPS. I’m not sure of a better way to substantiate Wolf’s claim, and I think that Perpetua agreed as he allowed it to be entered while noting it as hearsay.
As one observes the blatant attempts by the State to confuse, obfuscate and delay the release of these documents, it becomes apparent to even the least informed that they obviously have something to hide. There is no justification for the continued efforts to delay the inevitable. If the Sandy Hook incident is a genuine mass murder, why not simply provide Wolfgang with the proof and have him move on? It should really be just that simple!
The next significant occurrence in the hearing is the appearance of Newtown Police Officer Lt. Christopher Vanghele. Vanghele is asked what time he arrived at the Sandy Hook School and his response is “I don’t have my report right in front of me, so I don’t know the exact time”. The most important incident that he has ever participated in, and he doesn’t even know what time he arrived? Certainly when an officer is subpoenaed to appear in court, he would be prepared to answer questions. If it were me I would have brought the report with me so that I could refresh my memory if need be.
“So you did write a report?”, asks Kay.
Vanghele quickly corrects his mistake by saying “Uh, no, I gave a statement”
“Did you sign that statement?”, Kay asks.
“I don’t remember signing that statement” is his reply.
Now, without going into a line by line analysis of his testimony, let me summarize that he attests to the fact that he wrote a statement at his office, on his own personal computer at work, which he the loaded onto a “thumb drive” and delivered to DESPP who then may, or may not have edited his statement to be used in the CT State Police Report. What ?!?
Yes, that is correct! Vanghele has now either perjured himself or the CT State Police Report is a blatant lie!!
If you refer to pdf #00002060 in the CT State Police Report, you will find that the statement given by Lt. Vanghele is classified as an “interview” with a location of that interview given as “Newtown Police Dept, LT’s Office, 3 Main St., Newtown CT.”
The date and time of the “interview” is given as 12/18/12 from 8:30 AM- 11:43 AM. That seems pretty specific and since the investigating Officer is listed as Jeremy Combes, one would be led to believe that an actual interview was conducted by the investigating officer of Lt. Vanghele.
The pdf also states that the “Action taken” was that Vanghele “provided a typed statement”. Why it would take over 3 hours for Vanghele to provide a typed statement, which apparently only consisted of him handing them a thumb drive, is beyond my comprehension.
Lt Vanghele’s statement is slightly redacted, but I highly recommend that everyone read it. He is the officer who handed his badge to Kaitlyn Roig to identify himself as an officer. He also refers to the bookcase that she used to hide the door as a “cabinet” and refers to the bathroom as a closet. You would think that 4 days after the event he would have heard the story and known that it was a bathroom. He also refers to the shooter as having “long blonde, wispy hair”. That is unlike any of the pictures of Adam Lanza that I have seen.
Most importantly, the last line of the statement (or summary of the statement) says:
“The typed statement was signed by Lt. Vanghele, witnessed by Detective Lukienchuk #573 and I notarized the statement.”
So here we have it. Either Lt Vanghlele has seen fit to lie under oath, or the CT State Police Report has been fabricated to fit a narrative. I am inclined to believe the latter.
Next Kay Wilson asks Vanghele whether Chief Kehoe has ever asked him to provide him with a copy of the statement. Monte Frank immediately objects as to relevance (which is ridiculous as Kehoe is the custodian of records for Newtown PD and as such should have responded to Wolf’s FOIA by asking for the statements), and is put in his place by Perpetua who recognizes that Monte has no standing in this hearing and is not even on the record. His objection is overruled, but Vanghele never answers the question.
The question is asked “Mr. Vanghele, how long have you been a police officer”, to which there is another objection. The whole process becomes noticeably frustrating for Kay Wilson as she is continually interrupted and forced to explain herself.
The objection is overruled and Vanghele is asked whether, in his 22 years of experience, he has ever NOT given a police report after responding to an incident. Another objection is raised asking whether this is relevant as the FOIA request at hand involves the State and the records that they have, and not the records that Newtown keeps. It’s another attempt to confuse the issue and it proves to be effective. Kay becomes flustered and is forced to move on. It reminds me of the magician who hides the ball under one of three cups and each time we guess which cup contains the ball, we are re-directed.
The testimony of Vanghele concludes with Steven Barry trying to create the possibility that somehow Vanghele did “sign” his statement, but Vanghele fails to take the bait and contends that he “doesn’t remember” signing. Even given the opportunity to say that he “signed electronically”, Vanghele states that he did not. He also states that after submitting his statement, the State may have altered it and that after that he did not receive it back again for him to sign. It becomes apparent that no “signed and notarized statement” from Vanghele actually exists.
Next we have Christine Plourde testify that the Dash Cam DVDs and the Witness Statements requested by Halbig are being held by the State as “evidence” and are not subject to FOIA requests. Perpetua refers to a pending case (Hartfor Courant vs State of CT) in which it has yet to be decided whether seized evidence is subject to FOIA request once the case is closed. It has actually been ruled that indeed, once a case is closed, the items become “property” and not evidence, but that ruling has been appealed by the State and remains pending. I personally contacted David Altamari of the Hartford Courant 2 weeks ago, who told me that there is still no court date scheduled to hear the appeal.
Perpetua goes on to say that he will rule, as the Commission has previously ruled, that despite being used as evidence, the Dash Cam DVDs will be considered as public records which are subject to FOIA requests.
That is a big win for Wolfgang Halbig, who has informed me today that he will immediately FOIA request all of the Dash Cam video from every single CT State Police Officer that responded to the scene. I have, in fact, already received a copy of that FOIA Request.
Christine Plourde goes on to contend that the State is not in possession of any Official Newtown Police Department report. Indeed, it has become apparent by this point, that there is no Newtown Police Report, which sort of blows my mind.
She claims that the Officer Statements are “signed witness statements”, which are defined in their own redaction codes as exempt from FOIA. The problem here, as we saw from the testimony of Lt Vanghele, is that the Officer statements do not fall into that category. First of all, they are NOT signed. It is my belief that case law history will also reveal that Police Officers, while acting in their course of duty, cannot be considered as “witnesses”.
Like Lt Vanghele, Christine Plourde has also perjured herself by stating that “signed witness statements” were included in the Ct State Police Report. If they were submitted electronically, via thumb drives, it would be impossible for them to be signed, witnessed and notarized.
In summary, this was a big win for Wolfgang and Co. on many levels!! Perpetua intends to rule that the Dash Cam DVDs are indeed public record. They will be ordered to release those records. Police statements being viewed as witness statements requires further review. He gave the parties two weeks to research case law to determine the legality of those assertions, and already Wolfgang has found supporting documents that affirm the belief that police statements are a matter of public record and are indeed in a separate classification than witness statements.
It also becomes apparent by the testimony of the witnesses, the obfuscation by the State, and even the demeanor of the participants, that the State of CT does NOT want the details of the Sandy Hook incident revealed to the public. We can assume that if indeed Perpetua rules that the Officers Statements be released to Halbig, that the State will once again appeal that decision as they did with the Hartford Courant case.
It is important to note that the FOIA Laws and the FOIA Commission are an integral part of an open democracy. The people have a right to know about the behaviors and possible misconduct of public employees. These are the people work for US!!
I commend Wolfgang for continuing his quest and hope that he is encouraged by the most recent findings. We will await the Commission Hearing Officer’s ruling with optimism despite the most likely reaction of an appeal by the State. They continue to try to keep the lid on any factual evidence. It is our responsibility to continue to ask WHY?