A Superior Court judge on Friday rescinded a protective order that sealed the internal affairs reports of two state troopers who were fired after they were charged by Wethersfield police with kidnapping and assaulting a man who they said inappropriately touched one of their girlfriends.
Rupert Laird, 31, and Xavier Cruz, 30, are charged with first-degree kidnapping, deprivation of rights by force or threat and second-degree assault. They were arrested by Wethersfield police following an incident that occurred at Cruz's house on Feb. 18.
Judge Joan Alexander, who is overseeing the criminal cases, issued a protective order to seal the reports on Oct. 2. The Courant had requested copies, but was denied by the state police, which cited the protective order as the reason.
On Friday, Alexander said the order she issued on Oct. 2 was never intended to preclude parties from attempting to obtain the reports. Public records are available to the public and media through the state Freedom of Information laws. The Courant has appealed the state police denial for the internal affairs records to the state Freedom of Information Commission.
“FOI is allowed to conduct a hearing of any requested for records,” Alexander said, adding her intention wasn’t to circumvent the FOI process.
After The Courant filed the request for the internal affairs reports, lawyers for each former trooper filed motions in Superior Court asking that the court issue an injunction prohibiting the release of the report.
Alexander instead issued the protective order, but said at the Oct. 2 hearing that her order didn’t preclude parties from going through the FOI process to obtain the records.
New Britain State’s Attorney Brian Preleski said his office “shares some of the blame for the confusion for inartfully conveying the judge’s order to the state police.”
“I have no idea what the state police internal affairs report says and I don’t want to know. My only concern is the Wethersfield police reports, which are the basis for the criminal complaint, aren’t released,” Preleski told Alexander during a hearing Friday. “It was never the state’s understanding that court order impacted anyone’s attempt to go through FOI.”
Alexander blamed both the New Britain State’s Attorney’s Office and defense attorneys for “fueling the confusion” that somehow the public’s rights to open records were being undermined. She said the court’s “trust in the state and the defense attorneys was misplaced.”
“The state police were involved in this case as a result of an employment matter, not the criminal case,” Alexander said.
Attorney Aaron Romano, who is representing Laird, has filed a motion to intervene in the FOI case. Romano argued that if the reports were released it would affect his client's "right to a fair and impartial jury" and that his clients constitutional rights outweigh the public’s rights to documents.
Laird and Cruz are both scheduled to return to court Nov. 13.
Many of the details of the state’s case are spelled out in an arrest warrant that was previously made public.
The incident that led to their firing started with a group of people drinking at T's Cafe on Airport Road in Hartford, according to court records in the case. The victim knew both Cruz and Laird and was invited back to a party at Cruz's house. The victim told police there were about seven people partying in the kitchen when he started flirting with a female and grabbed her buttocks, according to the arrest warrant.
The victim left the party, but when he went home his girlfriend wouldn't let him in the apartment so he texted Cruz to ask if he could return to his house. He told police that as soon as he pulled into Cruz's driveway, Laird pulled in behind him in a Volvo and blocked him in.
As the two men walked into Cruz's home, the victim told police, Laird took a black handgun from his pants and pointed it at the victim's chest and said, "You know I can kill you, right?" Laird then said, according to the affidavit, "You know what, I'm not even going to do this because I am a cop, but I've got connections. ... if I was going to kill you no one would find the body."
Laird then asked Cruz to get his police baton and a pair of black boots, the warrant states. They told the victim to take off his glasses. Laird told the victim he was "going to pay" for touching the woman, with whom Laird had a close relationship, the warrant states.
The troopers took the victim into the basement and told him to strip to his underwear, the warrant states, and Laird then head-butted him above the left eye, drawing blood. Laird ordered him to get on his knees and started kicking and punching him, at one point ordering the man to grab a pipe above him so that he couldn't use his arms to deflect the blows, the warrant says.
Cruz then called the woman and made the victim apologize to her. Laird then asked her to pick a number between one and 10 and, when she said four, he told Cruz that's how many beatings the victim was going to get, according to the warrant.
Laird punched the victim more than 20 times, kicked him more than 20 times and struck him with a police baton at least 15 times, according to the victim's statement in the arrest warrant.
The victim said that Cruz didn't strike him, but also didn't stop Laird. At one point, the victim told police, he asked Cruz "to make him stop" and Cruz said no.