Clark case continues

At the hearing, Raymond Clark III was accompanied by his father, mother and fiancée; Le’s family did not attend.
At the hearing, Raymond Clark III was accompanied by his father, mother and fiancée; Le’s family did not attend. Photo by Victor Kang.

Raymond Clark III will serve 44 years in prison for the murder and sexual assault of Annie Le GRD ’13 — but the legal saga surrounding Le’s death could be far from over.

Two legal experts said the sentence, which could have stretched as long as 80 years under state guidelines, is not unexpected for a murder case like Clark’s. But while Clark is guaranteed to serve out his entire sentence — parole is not allowed for murder convictions, said David Strollo, a state prosecutor for the case — the question still remains whether the Le family will pursue civil lawsuits against Yale or other parties.

Following their daughter’s death, Le’s parents hired New York criminal defense attorney Joe Tacopina to represent the family throughout the legal process. Tacopina was present at the hearing on Thursday, where he told the New Haven Independent that the Le family will not consider filing civil suits until after Clark’s sentencing on June 3.

If the family were to sue anyone, said Raymond Kotulski, a Hartford criminal attorney not involved with the case, they would most likely file suit against Yale for providing inadequate security in the 10 Amistad St. building where Le’s body was found. As an employer and an educational facility, Kotulski said, Yale has a “duty of care” to provide for the safety and well-being of people who use its facilities.

A suit claiming Yale is at fault for Le’s death would imply that 10 Amistad St. was improperly secured despite the fact that it is only accessible to a small group of people with keycard access, he said. Because of access restrictions, the validity of such a suit is questionable, he added, but it would most likely result in an out-of-court settlement.

“I don’t know if it truly rises to a breach of Yale’s duty of care,” Kotulski said. “But [in the event of a lawsuit] Yale would most likely settle for less than the full value of the claim to avoid litigation.”

A secretary at Tacopina’s law firm said that he will not speak to any members of the press until after Clark’s sentencing.

For some, including New Haven attorney Paul Carty, the 44-year sentence comes as no surprise. Contrary to media speculation, Carty said that Clark was not a candidate for the death penalty since neither felony murder nor murder are capital offenses.

“When I had heard that [Clark] was going to change his plea [from not guilty to guilty], I said it would probably be about 45 years,” Carty said, adding that this resolution is “entirely appropriate” for a plea bargain in a murder case.

Carty explained that a plea bargain sentence is usually lower than a trial sentence because it means the defendant accepted responsibility for his actions. He added that if the prosecution was not willing to settle for a prison sentence of fewer than 60 years, he would have expected Clark’s lawyers to advise him to try his chances in court.

Even so, Kotulski said that 44 years was a lighter sentence than he expected.

“I thought the sentence was going to be higher, probably more like 50 years,” Kotulski said. “But I would imagine that the prosecutors went more lenient to save the [Le] family the heartache of a trial.

A murder case always requires a minimum of two to three years of preliminary motions before a criminal trial begins, Kotulski said, adding that the families of murder victims often seek closure and try to avoid prolonged trials that may force them to relive the details of a killing.

Although the Le family was not present at the New Haven court on Thursday to hear Clark’s guilty plea, Strollo said after the hearing the prosecution considered the family’s opinions when deciding whether to accept a deal with Clark.

During the hearing, Strollo said that Le’s parents were satisfied with the recommended sentence, but added that other family members expected a harsher punishment. Kotulski said that this difference of opinion is normal. Because the prosecution went ahead with the plea bargain, he added, a sufficient number of relatives must have accepted the agreement.

Before Clark changed his plea, Beth Merkin, one of Clark’s two defense attorneys, said that nearly 95 percent of all criminal trials in Connecticut are resolved by a plea bargain instead of a trial.

Comments

  • Dmitry

    “A suit claiming Yale is at fault for Le’s death would imply that 10 Amistad St. was improperly secured despite the fact that it is only accessible to a small group of people with keycard access”.

    That is true. But security, in a broader sense, includes the ability of the University to maintain the work environment free of hostility and harrassment. It appears to be a big question here, whether the anti-harrassment policies were adequate and properly enforced, and particularly, whether the predator took a sexual harrassment awareness training mandated by the State.

  • justayalemom

    “A suit claiming Yale is at fault for Le’s death would imply that 10 Amistad St. was improperly secured despite the fact that it is only accessible to a small group of people with keycard access, he said.”

    How did Yale not protect people using it’s facility? They are not Big Brother! It’s not like some stranger came in from outside, Clark was on the inside.

    There will always be insane people among us. We need to watch out for each other and be aware of our surroundings.

    This was a horrific crime but Yale is not to blame.

  • howardn

    Security also entails the size and location of the building, and the concept of security in numbers. A facility of that size (small by Yale standards) in that location (kind of a no man’s land on the YSM side of campus) is problematic regardless of security infrastructure. Add to this mix Local 34 nepotism, HR barriers to discovering juvenile offenses, and an animal unit without direct management supervision, and situations may arise, sometimes tragic.

  • winteralfs

    There are still questions surrounding the fire alarm that was set off awfully close in time to when this attack occurred. There has never been an adequate explanation to my knowledge of what set it off, and whether it really was simply a coincidence. If it really was Annie Le somehow heroically signaling for help, or Clark inadvertently setting it off in his grim panic after the attack, and no formal personal checked on the situation, then I think a lawsuit might be warranted. Especially if the latter turns out to be true and perhaps Annie could have been rescued. Does anyone know more info and could rule out these scenarios.

    Cedub

  • mar

    In my opinion the Yale facility was very poorly secured. Assuming that the building is secure because access is restricted to people associated with Yale is obviously a very faulty assumption. This assumes that somehow anyone who is employed by Yale or a student there is incapable of committing a violent crime.
    There are emergency phones outside on the grounds. Why are there not emergency phones and alarms inside? Why are there not security personnel making regular rounds during hours that young women can be working in such an obviously vulnerable location?

  • Larchmont

    Mar – I know it’s hard to accept, but there is no way to make anyplace “really” safe. There is no way to prevent random crazy from popping up in your life. This was random crazy and no amount of patrolling security guards or security phones or whatever other precautions you’d put in place would have helped, although it’s nice to think it might have.

    And, why only worry about vulnerable young women? Don’t all Yale employees deserve the same protection you are suggesting?

    By the way – lots of those vulnerable young women are world class scientists (or world class scientists in training) for whom there is no such thing as normal hours.

  • harbinger

    At Amistad, you have the same level of security as most Yale facilities. You have an unarmed guard watching the front door. Yes, it’s card access but like any other building, people will hold the door open for others to enter. People chock open doors on a regular basis, I’ve seen security come to close a door several times and as soon as they’re gone the staff opens it all over again saying it’s a hassle. Security at Yale is only as good as the community allows it to be. We can have armed security at every entry, armed patrols circling the building, background checks, emergency phones and cameras everywhere. What will that accomplish if no one follows the rules, an individual snaps, or a crime of passion occurs? Yale quite often ignores disciplinary issues for both union and non-union staff until it’s too late to do anything about it. No one wants to be the first to point a finger and be brought up on charges of harrasment or discrimination for identifying a potential problem. The culture has to change here, and the University has to have the will to cull potential problems before another tragedy occurs.

  • mar

    Contrary to some of the opinions expressed here, security does work (though nothing works 100 percent.) For example, why are there emergency phones outside? Because they give a potential victim a chance to call for help. If they work outside, they can work just as well inside. A building with rooms that are remote and frequently mostly deserted are a red flag begging for security measures to be taken. Also, it is a very common security practice in many work places to have security guards patrolling all areas at all hours. The reason is because it works. Had there been guards making rounds it is likely they would have seen or heard something in time to save Annie’s life. Yale took security measures to protect their people from outsiders, they were blind to protecting their people from insiders.

  • harbinger

    Mar, how many guards do you think would be required to cover every office space in every building at the University on a 24/7 basis and be within earshot of every room? There are security guards who make rounds through the building, but if your own coworker is the danger then no number of guards is going to protect you.

  • mar

    Sorry, not true. This is a building with rooms that are very remote and mostly deserted, As such it needs more protection than a busy office building filled with people. There is no reason not to have guards patrolling constantly and frequently. This fact alone is likely to serve as a deterrant. If Clark knew that the guard would be checking soon, would he have done it? I recently stayed at a hospital where I heard the security guards passing by constantly. Yale can do the same for areas that are obviously more vulnerable than other areas.

  • pepe

    Clark’s family and girlfriend have stood by him all along. The truth is not out there folks. The media are spin artists/justice officials are politicians and fools. Clark plead guilty via the Alford Doctrine, which indicates he believed that a jury would convict him upon the known evidence, and likely give him a death sentence. He does not admit he killed her, nor does the statement of his family. They are playing this strategically, carefully chosen words. But the statement of the family does give us a clue to what likely occurred. According to that statement, Clark feels responsible for the girl’s death, which may or likely does mean that he was in a position to prevent it. His girlfriend stands by him, so we can reasonably conclude that he was not the killer. It stands to reason then that he has an idea of who the killer or killers were. Perhaps then it is also safer for him and his family that he remain in prison under a murder sentence. That is the only thing that makes sense at this point.