AP NEWS

Court officers suspended after school field trip goes awry

April 8, 2019

STAMFORD — Two Stamford Superior Court officers have been suspended without pay pending an investigation into a Stamford middle school field trip last week where over 30 students were made to file through a court metal detector in search of a purportedly stolen gold necklace.

As a result of the April 2 incident at the Stamford courthouse, an internal investigation is underway and both the chief judicial marshal for the Stamford-Norwalk Judicial District and a sergeant have been placed on administrative leave without pay, said state Judicial Branch spokesperson Rhonda Stearley-Hebert. Because the investigation is pending, the Judicial Branch has no further comment at this time.

According to letters provided by Stearley-Hebert, Chief Victor Corley and Sgt. Willard Hargrove were placed on unpaid administrative leave Friday pending the outcome of an investigation into their handling of an incident involving a patron’s lost property at the courthouse last Wednesday.

The letters prohibit the two peace officers from entering any Judicial Branch work locations and they are not to talk about the incident with any branch employee. The two were also ordered to turn over their badges, identification cards and any other branch property deemed necessary by the marshals’ Director O’Donovan Murphy. The state Marshal Commission’s office referred all questions to Stearley-Hebert.

Joe Gaetano, president of the International Brotherhood of Police Officers Local 731, which represents judicial marshals and sergeants around the state, said he could not comment on the case on behalf of Hargrove because it was an ongoing investigation.

Sources at the courthouse said a group of students from Scofield Magnet Middle School went to the courthouse as part of a field trip and were addressed by a judge before midmorning recess had ended and court began again. As the students were filing out of the courthouse, three young men in their late teens or early 20s made a complaint to a court marshal, saying a gold necklace had been taken by four girls from the school.

As the Scofield bus was about to leave, sources said, Hargrove went out to the bus to discuss the allegation with the teacher; the kids were told to disembark and go through the metal detector to be searched without their parents being notified. The necklace was not found and one source called the allegation that led to the search “far fetched.”

According to the letters provided by the Judicial Branch, Corley and Hargrove have investigatory meetings planned for Wednesday when they will have the right to union representation and an opportunity to present reasons why leave without pay is not justified.

Sharon Beadle, spokesperson for the school district, said she was not aware of the incident.

jnickerson@stamfordadvocate.com