Amid probe, Stratton weighs mayoral bid

On June 13, Mike Stratton, trial lawyer and former alder for Ward 19, took a beating in his fourth floor apartment at the Kelly House on Crown Street. Tuesday he said he wants to beat Mayor Toni Harp at the polls in 2015.

He revealed that ambition one day after resigning as alder for Prospect Hill and parts of Newhallville and mere hours after police announced Tuesday they are investigating the domestic dispute involving Stratton, 48, and Courtney Darlington, 20.

Police were dispatched to 196 Crown Street in the early morning of June 13, responding to reports that a man had been assaulted by his girlfriend, authorities said. Stratton said he told officers he had been beaten by a woman upstairs after explaining to her that he wanted to end their relationship.

“I was out of line,” Darlington told the New Haven Independent that day. She could not be reached for comment Tuesday, and did not respond to messages sent to a Facebook page and modeling website registered under her name.

Stratton said Tuesday he had known Darlington for three to four weeks. He said they maintained a “very brief romantic relationship.”  Darlington was renting his apartment on Crown Street at the time of the incident, Stratton said, and will remain there for the duration of his lease.

“When I attempted to leave, she struck me repeatedly,” Stratton said in an email. “I did nothing to resist the attack knowing that even the slightest response would land me in jail and make me equally responsible. After taking 15 to 25 hits to the face and body, I managed to call 911 and ask for help.”

Darlington was charged with assault in the third degree and breach of peace in the second degree. She was released from custody on a promise to appear in court on July 24.

A police report did not mention that officers witnessed a “small amount of marijuana” when they entered the apartment on the request of Stratton to secure his front door, according to authorities.

“Chief [Dean] Esserman has ordered an investigation into the events of that evening including why any possible evidence of drugs hadn’t been seized as part of the investigation,” David Hartman, spokesman for the New Haven Police Department, said in a Tuesday release. Reached Tuesday evening, Hartman declined to comment further or discuss what type of findings merit additional police investigation.

Stratton fired back, saying the investigation — “to see if special treatment was given,” as he characterized it — lacks grounds. He said the marijuana did not belong to him: “I do not smoke pot but was aware of her occasional use.” He said he willingly gave police officers his keys to secure the apartment and told them to expect “no more than a joint or two.” Possession of less than one-half ounce of marijuana is a civil penalty in Connecticut, carrying no jail time and either a $150 or $500 fee, depending on if it is the first or a subsequent offense.

“Humans choose bad people to date.  I am human,” Stratton added. “I am not embarrassed in the least by my actions but it’s a great way to create the illusion of instability.” Stratton said he was already in the midst of divorce proceedings at the time of the incident and resigned from office so as not to subject his three children to public scrutiny.

He said he plans to move into an apartment on Prospect Street just behind his home on Huntington Street to be near his children.

Stratton accused Harp of ordering the investigation as a way to publicize the event and embarrass him. Long one of Harp’s most outspoken critics, he cast the investigation as an attempt to quiet his opposition to the “status quo.” Indeed Stratton, who was in his first term as an alder, spent his six months in office speaking out against the mayor’s budget decisions and organizing opposition to Democratic party leadership and alders with ties to local labor unions. That opposition coalesced around his fledgling “People’s Caucus,” a banner under which several alders dissented from the labor-backed majority.

“I think Mayor Harp may just have bought herself an opponent in 2015: me,” he said. “It’s time a human being ran this city not a machine.”

Laurence Grotheer, Harp’s spokesman, said the mayor had no part in the investigation. Harp told the Independent she would “never do that,” saying she would not intentionally embarrass someone.

Grotheer said Stratton is free to run for higher office, but added that the announcement seemed strange one day after Stratton’s resignation.

Stratton said he has not committed to a candidacy. Newly freed of elected responsibilities, he said he will weigh that decision over the next three to six months.

 

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