State Sen. Len Suzio is calling for the suspension of the Early Release Program following the shooting death of a store clerk in Meriden, but now questions are being raised over his calls to repeal it after asking for a constituent of his to be released from jail early just two weeks prior to the killing.
"I am convinced he would not present a risk to the community," Suzio said in a letter to the Department of Corrections on June 12.
In the letter, he speaks of an inmate, John Papandrea, and asks the Department of Corrections to "closely consider" his achievements in school, family support and his "sincere desire to have a second chance in proving he can be a worthy and contributing member of society."
Now, Suzio's calls to end the Early Release Program and to order an investigation into how the program is administered and how it affects public safety aren't sitting well with Under Secretary of Criminal Justice Mike Lawlor.
"The idea that candidates for office would be dragging crime victims and recent homicides in front of TV cameras to help bolster their own re-election campaign, I think that's really outrageous," Lawlor said.
Ibrahim Ghazal, 70, was shot and killed after handing over money during a robbery June 27 at the EZ Mart on East main Street in Meriden, and Frankie Resto was arrested and charged for the crime.
"The remainder of (Resto's) sentence was around 200 days," said State Victim Advocate Michelle Cruz. "He had 199 days of good time credit. Do the math. There was no option but to release him because of the program."
In a statement released by Lawlor on Friday, he speaks of Suzio's calls for his constituent, Papandrea, to be released from prison early.
"The hypocrisy of Sen. Suzio's actions is that much more outrageous when you consider he recently requested that a convicted felon be released after only serving 10 percent of his sentence," he said. "Papandrea was convicted of a Bernie Madoff-like crime of embezzling over $1 million from his employer in order to buy artwork for his home."
Because of the crime, Lawlor said, 18 employees needed to be laid off.
Suzio said he admits to asking for Papandrea's early release, but said that's a different situation because he isn't a violent criminal. Channel 3's Susan Raff asked Suzio for a comment that people are saying he is pushing the hot-button issue to help with being re-elected.
"My job as a legislator is to protect the public," Suzio said. "What I'm advocating for is the safety of the public. That's what this crime highlights.
"Suzio began lobbying for his early release from prison after he served just seven months of his 72-month sentence. Today he is calling on (Gov. Dannel Malloy) to suspend the very program he was hoping to take advantage of for one of his well-connected constituents. Does he not think anyone was hurt by Mister Papandrea's actions? Maybe he can tell that to the innocent employees who lost their jobs," Lawlor said.
Copyright 2012 WFSB (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
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