Sunday, March 05, 2006

The State that will try to Squash Free Speech

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POLITICS
State Settles With Trooper In Free Speech Dispute
March 4, 2006 Associated Press (From the Hartford Courant website)

A state trooper who successfully sued his bosses over a free speech issue has reached a cash settlement with the state.

The attorney general's office has agreed to a $450,000 out-of-court settlement with Trooper Mark Lauretano of Salisbury, ending a First Amendment case that began in 1999.

The state decided to drop its appeal of a federal court judge's ruling that said the state police media policy violated the First Amendment.

Lauretano had alleged that his superiors violated his right to free speech by preventing him from speaking about a sexual assault case he investigated.

Lauretano, who was accused of mishandling the case, said state police brass used the policy to punish him while he looked into an alleged rape at the prestigious Hotchkiss School in Salisbury.

He was suspended for two months without pay, removed as Salisbury resident trooper and transferred.

In 2004, U.S. District Judge Dominic Squatrito agreed with him and imposed a permanent injunction ending the state police media policy, which dictated what troopers could say to the media and the public.

The state appealed the case, but Attorney General Richard Blumenthal's office recently elected to settle without going to trial.

Squatrito's decision barred the public safety commissioner from requiring employees to obtain prior permission to speak when they are not on duty or representing the department, when they are not revealing confidential information as defined in the state police operating manual or when they are speaking about a matter of public concern.

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