• Attorney Adrian Baron

Updated: Feb 26


January 6th, 2021 will go down as a horrific day in our nation's history. In addition to over 4000 Americans dying from Covid, we saw an attack on the very heart of our democracy. The events that unfolded would end with six dead Americans and a multitude of injured police officers. An angry horde of the President's spurred supporters breached the United States Congress in a bumbling keystone-cop attempt to silence the voice of the American voter.


Reports indicate a 42 year old Capitol Police officer named Brian Sicknick was among the dead. A woman was shot dead attempting to breach a barricaded door. Another was trampled by the mob. In a twisted irony she was holding the Gadsden flag with the motto "Don't Tread on Me" Three days after the attack, a Capitol Police officer name Howard Liebengood committed suicide. Assigned to the Senate division he was the son of the late Howard S. Liebengood, a former Senate sergeant-at-arms, prominent lobbyist and chief of staff for two Republican senators. He was one of two officers who committed suicide.All needless deaths in the name of conspiracy and delusion.


Reports indicate rioters“actively attacked” Capitol police and other law enforcement officers with metal pipes, pepper spray and other weapons. Molotov cocktails, pipe bombs and firearms were recovered. Photos showed rioters grasping multiple zip cuffs as if in preparation of taking prisoners. A gallows was built. Calls made to hang the Vice President. Windows smashed. Offices ransacked. Documents stolen. Feces spread on walls.. An armed standoff at the chamber doors. Blood was spilled in the hallways of Congress as stoic statues of our founding fathers stared down at the ensuing melee. Democracy put on hold as terrorism sullied the halls of Congress.

It was not the first time Congress was breached. During the war of 1812, the British invaded Washington, D.C. Not the Beatles. British soldiers. Forget broken windows. These invaders managed to burn down the entire US Capitol. In 1954, members of the Puerto Rican Nationalist party entered the gallery and opened fire. Five members of Congress were wounded. Luckily, no one was killed. On July 24, 1998, a man named Russell Eugene Weston Jr. entered the Capitol and opened fire. Officers Jacob Chestnut and Detective John Gibson were killed. Diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, Weston was put in a mental institution. The nation endured. Democracy moved on.


I have been privileged to visit Congress on multiple occasions. My claim to fame is drinking a Polish beer and eating pierogi in the offices of the US Senate. (I was there to present an award to General Edward Rowny, a personal hero of mine) In addition to members of Congress, I had the wonderful opportunity to meet many staffers including Capitol police officers, congressional aides, cafeteria workers, tour guides and others. They are proud to work within those solemn walls. It is disheartening to think of them subjected to yesterday's terror. To hear an officer died in the line of duty is gut wrenching. I imagined many called loved ones as armed gunmen roamed the halls. I thank them for their service. Whether it be a student or a member of Congress, no one should have to experience such abject terror.


By 3:30 PM, the Senate Floor was cleared of the rioters as the mob was pushed back to the rotunda Approximately 52 people were arrested including Connecticut residents Victoria Bergeson and Maurcio Mendez. At 40, both old enough to know better. By 5:30 PM. the halls of Congress were secure. Both chambers of Congress eventually took their seats to continue their work on behalf of their constituents.

How had it come to this? We were all Americans. We all love baby Yoda. We all want what's best for our families. Are we really at each others throats over well coiffed politicians with whitened teeth? Family members and childhood friends attacking each other on social media. Terms like Nazis and Communists being thrown around with no real understanding of the terms. When did Timmy become such a whack job? He was so normal in high school. Unfriending at record speed because they couldn't stand another criticism of Biden or Trump. Are we really that far apart? And when did the weirdness start of flying flags with the names of politicians emblazoned on them? Stick with Old Glory. It's creepy.


I wondered how seemingly educated people could be so removed from reality. Qanon nonsense tops the list. Most of us have smart phones where we can access a treasure trove of man's knowledge. Didn't people have common sense? What person in their right mind believes in the absolute absurdity of Qanon? JFK Jr. is still alive. Tom Hanks and Oprah involved in a sex child ring involving satanic rituals. Are yah nuts? I'll let you in on a secret. I was working for a member of the Kennedy family when John F. Kennedy Jr. tragically died in a plane crash. I can assure you JFK Jr. is not alive. If he was, he's not teaming up with the former host of the Apprentice.


Of course, I am sure others questioned my positions on various subjects. He's a lawyer. How does he not see what I see? Judging by comments on my social media pages, some saw yesterday's events through a completely different lens. Considering how odd some comments were, I can only surmise those glasses were made out of fun house mirrors.


Atlantic Magazine's David Graham warned us about the gaslighting to come. He suggested we should try to remember what the day was like as "Somebody might try to convince you it was different very soon". He was absolutely correct. Immediately, social media was inundated with apologists suggesting the attack was no big deal. Some suggested the rioters were actually patriots defending the republic. Or undercover BLM & Antifa agents. Others made grand speeches about the need to refresh the tree of liberty with the blood of tyrants. They were ready to answer the call. "Give me a break" I thought. "You drive a Corolla and live with your mother. You sound ridiculous" Still others went into long tirades replete with whataboutisms, false comparisons. easily debunked conspiracy theories and just a wide eyed cult-like denial of the days events. Some die hard supporters of the president seemed more concerned with Trump's Twitter account than this brazen attack on our democratic process. Were we really that far apart as a country? If I had a steady diet of conspiracy theories for 4 years, would I think the same way? If you only read Breitbart or watch Newsmax, you are sure to have an angry chip on your shoulder. As a nation, we couldn't even agree to wear masks during a viral pandemic. I thought that was a no-brainer. Couldn't they see the emperor had no clothes? It was horrible how the situation escalated. (I think one guy even had a trident).


Of course, I do not equate all Trump supporters with the mob that attacked Congress. The vast majority of protesters on both sides of the aisle were relatively peaceful whether the subject be taxes, vaccines, reproductive rights, elections, racism or a host of other issues. They do not deserve to be painted with a broad brush. They are exercising their constitutional rights. On the other hand, when political hyperbole rises to a true threat of violence, your actions fall outside the scope of the First Amendment. We have seen businesses destroyed and looted in Seattle. A woman murdered in Charlottesville. Terror used in Washington D.C. in a woefully misinformed attempt to overturn an election based on conspiracy nonsense pushed by a delusional man.



Eventually, reality has to set in. Trump lost the popular vote. Over seven million more Americans voted for the president's opponent. Trump lost the electoral college vote. Joe Biden won by a wide margin There were multiple recounts. Trump and his allies made over 60 court challenges. They were easily dismissed. They couldn't produce any evidence of substance. Many of the lawsuits were thrown out by conservative judges. Fifty states certified their election results. As always, Republicans and Democrats worked the polls side by side. How much more proof do you possibly need to know that the turkey is done? The fat lady has sung to the point her voice is hoarse.


Do people really believe that Hugo Chavez stole this election? Spoiler alert: The guy died in 2013. Or as Roger Stone suggested, North Korean ships delivered ballots through Maine. Had these people ever seen a map? Wouldn't California be a closer port? Do some really believe there was a national conspiracy that would have required conservative and liberal judges, postal workers across the country, various media, Republican and Democratic election officials, elected representatives, secretaries of state, election volunteers, and others working secretly in sync to deny Trump a win? Or is the truth more simple. Do you know why Biden won? Not complicated. He got more votes. The bottom line is sometimes your horse simply doesn't win. But I digress..


In the end, it's a new morning. Democracy moves forward. Hopefully we can remember that we are all Americans and we can move on together to face new challenges

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Updated: Jan 6


I would like to wish the readers of The Nutmeg Lawyer a very happy, healthy and prosperous 2021. May it be full of endless possibilities. I tend to start my year off the same way I do every year. I check on the status of an inmate named Francis Smith. As far as I could tell, Smith may be the longest serving inmate in the United States. No, he’s not working on a chain gang in Alabama. He’s not running the Shawshank prison library with his pet bird. Smith is located right here in the Constitution State. Born September 1, 1924, Francis Smith is 96 years old at the time of this writing. His last admission to a Connecticut prison was on June 7, 1950. When I last checked on Mr. Smith, he was still incarcerated at the Osborn Correctional Facility in Somers, Connecticut. Since that time, it appears they have moved Smith to a nursing home. So what could have condemned this nonagenarian to serving over seventy years in prison?


From a young age, Smith had a history of run-ins with the law. Boosting everything from baubles to cars, Smith would eventually end up at the Cheshire Reformatory for male youths at the age of 13. After assaulting a guard and escaping, he found himself graduating to a maximum security prison. As he grew older, “Frank” became known to local police as part of a crew that committed petty crimes all over southern Connecticut. Things would get more serious on a fateful night in 1949.


It was seventy-one years ago, on a balmy summer night in Greenwich, Connecticut. Smith and his cohorts allegedly headed toward the Indian Harbor Yacht Club with a plan to rob it. A security guard named Grover Hart stumbled across their nefarious effort while on his rounds. (Hart once worked as a driver for Dan Topping, an owner of the NY Yankees at the time). Surprising the robbers, they responded with multiple rounds from two different guns. One of the shots pierced Hart's kidney. Before he died two days later, he managed to give local police a description of his assailant.


Soon after the murder, Francis Smith was spotted in a Cadillac at the Hollywood Café in Brewster, New York. Someone had called the police after observing Smith and his partner George Lowden acting suspicious. As New York troopers arrived, the men fled into the woods leaving their car behind. It was soon discovered the car was listed as stolen out of Stamford, Connecticut Inside the Caddy, police found neck ties bearing the insignia of the Indian Harbor Yacht Club, jewelry from the club’s lost & found box, expensive cigars with the club’s logo, and a .22 caliber pistol. The gun matched up with the bullet casings from the murder of Grover Hart. If that wasn’t enough, a shirt was in the car with the name “Smith” imprinted on it by a laundry service. Smith would be found wandering in the woods of Wilton, Connecticut with a bottle of hair dye. Upon his capture, he implicated his partner George Lowden.




Not surprisingly, Lowden took a plea deal and testified against Smith. The move spared Lowden a death sentence. Smith declared his innocence and demanded a trial. In 1950, he would be convicted of first degree murder in Bridgeport Superior Court. The sentence was death by electrocution. Smith would spend four years on death row. He avoided execution six times. At first, it appeared his luck would run out. For the 7th time, Francis Smith was scheduled to be executed. The harrowing date would be June 7, 1954 at the former Wethersfield State Prison. Two hours before his impending electrocution and with his head partially shaved to receive the electrodes, the news came in. The state Board of Pardons commuted his sentence to 25 years to life in prison. Smith had dodged his death sentence.


Over the next few years, the story of Francis Smith would take many startling twists and turns. The lead investigator in the murder case against Smith made a statement that he was positive Smith didn’t murder Grover Hart. His partner George Lowden recanted his testimony that Smith was a shooter. An inmate in Alabama named Dave Blumetti testified he was Lowden’s accomplice. He stated that they dropped off Smith in Stamford before heading to the Yacht Club. A witness for the prosecution recanted her testimony that she saw Smith driving the Cadillac.


Smith protested his innocence and demanded a new trial in 1954. The Connecticut State Supreme Court denied Smith’s request with one judge dissenting. The Honorable Patrick O’Sullivan wrote that the jury “relying exclusively upon circumstantial evidence, found him guilty, while another person not only has confessed to the commission of the murder but has placed Smith far from the scene of the crime.” Smith’s appeal to federal court was turned down in 1965.


Smith had been a pretty good prisoner to that point. At the Enfield Correctional Institution he earned special privileges. On a minimum security prison farm, he was able to work as a mechanic. Dejected, he decided to make his escape. It did not involve years of elaborate planning replete with posters of Rita Hayworth, tiny rock hammers, and earning the warden's trust by doing his taxes. In 1967, he simply stole a farm truck and drove away. He would experience less than two weeks of freedom. Following a huge manhunt, Francis was captured near Boston. He was 43. If he had not escaped, he would have been eligible for parole by 1970. Smith was sent back to prison as the country entered the disco era. During the 1970s, the Board of Pardons & Paroles would let Smith out on parole. After 10 months on the outside, Smith was sent back to prison after he violated his terms of release.

"These walls are funny. First you hate 'em, then you get used to 'em. Enough time passes, you get so you depend on them. “Red... Shawshank Redemption


About a decade or so ago, Francis Smith became eligible for parole again. I imagine he had become much like James Whitmore’s character Brooks in the film the Shawshank Redemption. He had become dependent on the walls around him. Would he even recognize the outside world? When he was first incarcerated in 1950, the number one song in the country was Good Night Irene and Harry Truman was president. Alaska and Hawaii were not yet states. It would be four years before Elvis made his historic recording at Sun Records. The Beatles had not yet invaded America. It would be years before man landed on the moon.


Speaking of Good Night Irene, some interesting tidbits. Performed by the Weavers in 1950,

the song details a man who regrets the choices he made in life. The group credited an old folk singer named Leadbelly from the 1920s for providing them with the woeful tune. Like Francis Smith, Leadbelly was convicted of murder. He received a pardon for the crime and avoided a death sentence. I found a video on Youtube of Leadbelly performing Good Night Irene in Wilton, Connecticut. Oddly enough, Wilton was where Francis Smith hid from police after filling a man's belly with lead. Leadbelly once worked as a driver and would die from ALS, commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease. The man Francis Smith allegedly killed was a driver for the owner of the Yankees. But I digress...


The world had moved on from Francis Smith. Articles about him have yellowed with age. The judges who sentenced him are long dead along with most of the people involved that fateful night.


Fast forward to 2021 and the number one song is Mood by rapper 24kGoldn. And yes, I had to google it. Smith would now enter a world of mask clad pedestrians walking with their heads bent down towards glowing smart phones with access to the full knowledge of mankind and videos of cats knocking things off tables. He would find self driving cars silently traversing the streets and robots roaming grocery stores aisles. Resigned to his fate, Smith would make no more appeals for his freedom. No more daring escapes. Good night Irene. Good night Francis Smith.



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  • Attorney Adrian Baron

Connecticut residents will see some changes in 2021. Here is a quick look at five laws that go into effect when you wake up on January 1st.


1. THE FAMILY MEDICAL LEAVE ACT

You might see a slightly lower paycheck in 2021. Look for a decrease of around .5% starting January 1st. In 2019, the Connecticut Legislature passed the Paid Family and Medical Leave Act. So what does that mean for you? Private businesses with at least one employee will be taxed. That income will provide up to 12 weeks of paid leave for employees during a 12 month period. Employees in Connecticut will be able to take this leave starting January 1, 2022. The leave can be for health issues, taking care of a sick spouse, child, parent, grandparent, sibling or even someone close to you. This leave time will also be available for you to donate an organ (Pipe organs not included. More of the kidney variety), military service (excluding Call of Duty campaigns on your X Box) or domestic abuse issues.



2. POLICE ACCOUNTABILITY

So what is happening with our police? The Police Accountability Act passed during a special legislative session this past summer. Some provisions of this new law have already gone into effect. Those provisions include making it mandatory that a police intervene if his or her fellow officer is using excessive force. It also places certain restrictions on police searches and imposes penalties for residents reporting incidents based solely on race. Starting January 1, arresting officers or officers who have daily interaction with the public will have to prominently display their badge on the top layer of their uniform. Police officers will also have the added responsibility of submitting to an annual behavioral health assessment every five years by a board-certified psychiatrist or psychologist. The Connecticut Police Officer Standards and Training Council will also see some changes to the group’s membership structure. Membership will be increased to 21 (which will include the Police Academy’s Commanding Officer). Appointments from the Governor will be reduced from 17 to 11. Six legislative appointments will be added. You will also see additional efforts to recruit, retain and promote minority officers. These efforts must be reported to the state Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection.



3. REGULATION OF ELECTRIC UTILITIES

If you recall this past summer, Connecticut residents were not too happy with Eversource’s response to Tropical Storm Isaias. Let's be frank. It sucked. Thousands of people had no power for days while rates kept going up. Starting January 1, electric companies must report to PURA and the legislature’s energy committee. They will have to explain how they prepare and respond to emergencies like snowstorms and hurricanes. This report will need to include assessments before and after storms, an analysis of infrastructure, and a breakdown of linemen and equipment. Based on this report, PURA will establish what is required by the electric utilities including minimum staffing requirements based on the seriousness of the emergency. If the electric company doesn’t meet the standards, PURA can impose civil penalties. The penalties cannot be passed down to you and me as customers.



4. INSULIN PRESCRIPTIONS

Good news for people suffering from diabetes. Starting January 1, residents will have access to one emergency related prescription a year. In addition to insulin, the prescription covers diabetes devices, syringes, test strips and glucagon drugs, Pharmacists will be required to give a 30 day price capped emergency supply of diabetes related drugs and devices to residents who have less than a week supply of insulin or other related items. The law will limit the cost to your insurance plan co-payment. If you don’t have insurance, the pharmacist must charge the typical price of these items,



5. PENSIONS

Starting January 1, Connecticut’s senior citizens will be able to claim 28% of their pension and annuity income provided that they earn less than $75,000 a year or, for married couples, less than $100,000 a year. This is twice the amount you were able to deduct last year.


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