Nearly nine years after he shot and robbed a Yale graduate student on the evening of Aug. 21, 2008, former New Haven resident Matthew Pugh was sentenced to 15 years in prison last Thursday.
In June 2016, a jury found Pugh guilty of the first-degree robbery and assault of then-Art School student Tatiana Grigorenko ART ’10, and carrying a pistol without a permit. Judge Jon Alander LAW ’78 of the Connecticut Superior Court upheld the findings in early January. The judge also ruled last week that Pugh’s 15-year sentence would be added to, rather than served concurrently with, an existing 60-year sentence. Pugh began that sentence in 2015 after he was convicted of murdering his former girlfriend Alexandra Ducsay in May 2006.
According to Grigorenko’s testimony, Pugh came up behind her near the intersection of Edwards and Nicholl Streets, pulled at her handbag and then shot her in the thumb when she resisted. An international student, Grigorenko had arrived in New Haven less than a day before the incident.
“The man who attacked and shot me wanted my handbag,” Grigorenko wrote in a statement read aloud at the sentencing. “For nothing but a handbag and the roughly $200 that was inside it, he did not hesitate to point a gun at another human being, look me straight in the eye and pull the trigger.”
Pugh has maintained that he is not the gunman who stole the bag and has said he was at work in Stratford that night, on a shift lasting from 7:30 p.m. to 3:30 a.m. The incident took place around 8 p.m.
According to his attorney Thomas Farver, Pugh has filed the paperwork to initiate an appeal of the latest ruling.
His argument has focused primarily upon the long span of time between the date that the incident occurred, in late August 2008, and the date that New Haven police arrested Pugh in mid-July 2010. Pugh and Farver have argued that the period separating those dates violates Pugh’s right to due process under the Fifth and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.
“Our concerns primarily involve the fact that obviously this case has been sitting around for a great length of time,” Farver said. “In the process, people’s memories fade.”
The case file was not assigned to an officer in the police department after the incident occurred, and the unit that would have been responsible for the investigation disbanded the following October. According to the detective who found the documents in June 2010, records of the incident were “just sitting in a file.”
The court found the delay was “neglect on the part of the New Haven Police Department,” but denied Farver’s argument that it severely prejudiced Pugh’s ability to defend himself.
Farver has pointed out, however, that because of the delay, he was unable to obtain records from Pugh’s cell service provider, which could have been used to triangulate his location on the date of the incident. Pugh’s employer had during the period also disposed of time records from the date of the incident, and his supervisor was unable to recall who was working on Pugh’s August 2008 shift, when he was asked to testify after the 2010 arrest.
Grigorenko said that at the time of the incident, she could not identify the man robbing her, because she was fixated on the weapon. But she noted that the perpetrator was a black male with medium complexion, wore a do-rag and was an estimated five feet and four inches tall.
At the time of the incident, Kristine Mingo was driving in her car when she got “a good look” at a man running down Edwards Street with a handbag. The next day, authorities showed Mingo photos of eight men, and she identified a photo of Pugh as the man she had seen.
Grigorenko’s credit cards, which were in her bag at the time it was stolen, were used at a Burlington Coat Factory outlet and at the New Haven Shaw’s Supermarket two days after the incident. The cards were used to purchase several cartons of baby formula. Before the unit responsible for investigating the incident was disbanded, it obtained video from the supermarket and identified the woman who used the cards as Latricia Black.
Black testified that she had been accompanied to the store by two other women and a man who they called “Matt.” One of the women gave the card to Black, and Black said that she saw the name “Tatiana” on the card. She later identified a picture of Pugh to be the same “Matt.”
The intersection of Edwards and Nicholl Streets is approximately three-quarters of a mile from the site of the new residential colleges.