Mike Stratton, trial lawyer and former city alder, turned himself in on domestic violence charges Tuesday morning — waiting out the morning in police lock-up before posting bail, vowing to plead not guilty to assault and breach of peace surrounding a domestic dispute with his girlfriend in June.
Stratton, 48, will be arraigned in New Haven District Superior Court Wednesday morning. He said he plans to contest authorities’ claims that he assaulted Courtney Darlington, 20, in his Crown Street apartment, where Darlington was living at the time. She was arrested on the scene and charged, while Stratton initially went free.
A subsequent police investigation, launched following unreported statements that responding officers had observed marijuana on the scene, determined that Stratton had indeed battered Darlington as well, according to police, who cited video surveillance tapes from the apartment building. An arrest warrant was issued for Stratton July 2.
New Haven Police Assistant Chief Al Vazquez said Stratton showed up at police headquarters at 7:30 a.m. and told the sergeant on duty that there was a warrant out for him.
“It was very uneventful. We took him into custody,” Vazquez said, adding that bond was set at $2,500.
Released Tuesday afternoon, Stratton was upbeat and optimistic about his legal predicament. “I’ve just extricated myself from New Haven’s finest hotel,” he said of the detention facility at 1 Union Avenue.
A day earlier, Stratton had resigned as partner from his law firm, Stratton Faxon Trial Lawyers. He is now “of counsel” to the firm, which has been renamed Faxon Law Group Trial Lawyers. In addition to trying cases for Joel Faxon, his old partner, he is launching his own firm, True Stratton, which will do trial work in Connecticut and New York, he said.
He said the change in the firm’s leadership came down to Faxon’s “enormous discomfort with my involvement in politics.”
“The fact is we were getting bad press,” Stratton said, referring to his involvement in high-profile disputes with Mayor Toni Harp and his colleagues on the Board of Alders, from which Stratton resigned at the end of June.
“This is a fabulous deal for me,” he said. “I get continuing royalties on the firm and now I have my own trial work both in Connecticut and New York City.”
Stratton said he continues to believe he was the victim of political retribution, arguing that the subsequent police investigation was designed to shame him. Authorities, including Assistant Chief Archie Generoso, have defended the follow-up probe as standard procedure. “Our investigation is closed,” NHPD Spokesman David Hartman said in July, when Stratton remained uncharged.
Stratton said he plans to examine the video evidence police cite in the warrant for his arrest today. He maintains he acted only in self-defense, granting he may have had to push Darlington away. “I was the guy who called 911 twice,” he said.
Darlington told the News Tuesday that she takes full blame for their physical altercation, saying she and Stratton have smoothed things over — and that she wishes the pair could now be left alone.
“If he did ever touch me, it was like a shove — him pushing me away,” she said. “I don’t ever recall him swinging at me like I did to him.”
Stratton said he hopes the case goes to trial. If he pleads not guilty, the state’s attorney’s office also has the option of offering to dismiss the case, he said. Assistant State’s Attorney David Strollo did not return request for comment Tuesday afternoon. Stratton said he remains interested in investigating a malicious prosecution case, though he disavowed ambitions to run for mayor in 2015, saying he doesn’t see “the political will.”
Darlington, meanwhile, said she wants the case to go away as quickly as possible. She has a court date Thursday, where she plans to plead guilty. Now that she and Stratton have worked through their disagreement the authorities should drop the case, Darlington said.
“I don’t understand why everyone else is still making such a big hassle of our personal problems,” Darlington said. “I don’t care what you do behind your closed doors. That’s your business. Everybody is entitled to their privacy.”
Stratton formerly represented Prospect Hill and parts of Newhallville on the Board of Alders