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Former lawyer Clein, who hired hitman in 1994 murder, released from prison

November 23, 2018

The Old Saybrook lawyer who hired a hitman to kill Anson “Buzz” Clinton in March 1994 at the request of a young associate with whom he was involved in an adulterous and cocaine-fueled affair was released from state prison to a halfway house last month.

Haiman L. Clein, now 77, served 22 years of a 35-year prison sentence for murder and conspiracy to commit murder. He earned more than 10 years timeoff for good behavior by working seven days a week as a “tier man” who cleaned up after other prisoners in the restrictive housing unit at the Corrigan Correctional Institution, according to his court file.

In July, Judge Hillary B. Strackbein agreed to take another 189 days off the sentence after meeting with Chief State’s Attorney Kevin T. Kane, who prosecuted Clein while serving as state’s attorney for New London.

Clein was released to the Fellowship House halfway house in Groton on Oct. 1 and is scheduled to be fully released to the community in March of 2019, according to the Department of Correction.

Clein declined a request for an interview Friday, saying by phone that he is concerned about his family, and isn’t interested in any publicity.

“I’m not going to remain in the area,” Clein said before politely ending the conversation.

The lurid crime for which he served his time has been followed closely by the media for two decades and chronicled in true crime TV shows such as “Snapped,” “Deadly Women” and “Blood Relatives.”

Now a divorced grandfather, Clein was a married father of four children when his lover and co-conspirator, Beth Ann Carpenter, helped authorities capture him at a phone booth in California in 1996.

According to court testimony and documents, Clein was having an affair with Carpenter, a young attorney who worked at his Old Saybrook law firm. Carpenter’s sister Kim was married to Buzz Clinton, and Carpenter wanted Clinton dead because she thought Clinton was abusing her sister’s daughter, Rebecca Carpenter.  

Clein paid Despres, a client and cocaine dealer, to kill Buzz Clinton. Despres, accompanied by his 15-year-old son, shot Clinton five times in the chest and ran over his body on the Rocky Neck Connector in East Lyme on March 10, 1994.  

It took authorities a couple of years to figure out the plot, and several more years to resolve the court cases of the key players. The victim’s mother, the late Daloyd “Dee” Clinton of Old Lyme, attended all of the court proceedings wearing the blue dress she had worn to her son’s funeral.

The triggerman, Despres, now 59, pleaded guilty and is serving a 45-year sentence.

Clein also pleaded guilty and cooperated with authorities. Carpenter took her chance with a jury of her peers and lost. A New London jury convicted her of capital felony, murder and conspiracy to commit murder in 2002, and she was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of release.

Carpenter turned 55 on Friday and is serving her sentence at the Janet S. York Correctional Institution in Niantic. She has maintained her innocence throughout several appeals at the state level and her attorney, Norman A. Pattis, said she is attempting to have her case heard by federal judges in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.

Pattis said in a phone interview Friday that Carpenter is paying the price for taking her case to trial.

“This is a graphic illustration of the trial tax at work,” he said. “A jury concluded she conspired with Clein to murder another human being. Clein went out and arranged the murder. He found the hit man, paid the hit man and gave the hit man instructions and then turned state’s evidence on Beth.”

Clein cooperated with prosecutors Kevin T. Kane and Peter A. McShane and Inspector John T. “Jack” Edwards while the case was pending and provided detailed testimony at Carpenter’s murder trial and subsequent court proceedings.

“I thought he did a good job testifying and I thought he was truthful,” Edwards said by phone Friday. Edwards said that when Clein filed his request for a reduced sentence, Kane asked him to call victim Buzz Clinton’s father, Anson “Buck” Clinton, who lives in Arizona. Clinton told Edwards he had no objection to the request.

Clein had requested the sentence reduction of 189 days because, he wrote in a court motion, he lost that much time off for good behavior based on the “extraordinary delay” in his sentencing. Because he was cooperating with the state, he was not sentenced for more than five years after he entered prison.

“I have been a model prisoner during my incarceration, have held the same difficult job in the Restrictive Housing (segregation) Unit for almost 19 years, and have at all times fully cooperated with the state in all respects,” he wrote in the application.

k.florin@theday.com

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