A headline above Monday’s New York Post article about the murder of Annie Le GRD ’13 screamed, in large block letters, “Bride’s Body Mashed.”
But the story of how Raymond Clark III broke Le’s bones in an attempt to fit her body “through a wall opening the size of a computer screen” turned out to be just another false rumor.
It wasn’t the only misleading report to be published in the aftermath of Le’s death, and now the public defenders representing Clark say they want investigators to probe the sources of various leaks — especially those that have proven to be true — that have appeared in the media over the past two weeks.
Tom Ullmann, the chief public defender in New Haven, said some of the information provided to the media since Le’s body was found should not have been made public, adding that some of the stories about Clark that have appeared in the media could make it hard for jurors to remain impartial in the case.
“I don’t think you can just let it go without expressing that this is a problem, and if it continues and if we discover who it is, there are going to be consequences,” Ullmann said. “Otherwise I don’t think it will stop.”
Ullmann said he believes the leaks have originated with officers in the New Haven Police Department, citing a report in the New Haven Register that referred to anonymous sources at the New Haven Police Department.
But James Lewis, the chief of the NHPD, said in an interview Monday that he is not sure where reporters got their information. He added that media outlets who knew Clark was a person of interest in the case before the announcement could have received the tip from a variety of sources.
“I can’t say it wasn’t us, I can’t guarantee it wasn’t us,” Lewis said. “Part of the issue of when you have close relationships in a community where we’re working side by side with each other, friendships are built. Could that possibly play into this? Sure, it’s a possibility.”
Lewis added that a lot of the information that was leaked to the media was inaccurate, but he said it is impossible to know whether reporters spoke to police officers, people who had been interviewed by the police, or just people who pretended to know what they were talking about.
“There’s a variety of ways information can get out,” Lewis said. “The only thing that’s authorized is what comes out of my office.”
Ullmann said he has sent a letter to the New Haven State’s Attorney Michael Dearington asking for an investigation into who was responsible for leaking the information to the press, with hopes of finding and firing the source.
It is not just the public defenders who are concerned about the leaks; Yale officials have also expressed outrage about the information’s finding its way into newspapers and onto television screens in recent days.
“I frankly found the unattributed sources in some of the regional and national press to be disconcerting, and I think problematic, for people both in our community and the nation trying to follow the story,” University Vice President and Secretary Linda Lorimer said Monday.
Still, despite all the fury over the leaks, Ullmann said it is going to be difficult to discover the source of the information.
Lewis said that if he were to receive evidence proving that one of his employees was involved in leaking information to the media he would “take action,” but he said he is not optimistic that reporters would volunteer the names of their sources.
Ullmann said the NHPD has famously leaked information in the past, including during the investigation into the murder of Suzanne Jovin ’99. Days after the NHPD’s investigation into Jovin’s death began, information leaked out that Jovin’s thesis advisor James Van de Velde ’82 was a person of interest. No evidence has ever been found to link Van de Velde to the murder, and he is no longer a suspect.
Although fingers are being pointed at the NHPD in particular, spokesman Joe Avery said that it is hard to pinpoint where the leaks were coming from since there were five agencies involved. The NHPD, Yale Police Department, Connecticut State Police, Federal Bureau of Investigation and the State’s Attorney’s Office all had roles in the investigation into Le’s murder.