Dismissal of Teacher's Wrongful Death Suit Upheld

By: Daniel Tepfer
Connecticut Post—January 31, 2003

HARTFORD-- The State Appellate Court has upheld the dismissal of a lawsuit by a former city official and teacher who claimed he was wrongfully arrested by Bridgeport police on charges of assaulting students.

The appeals court ruled that the former teacher, Leonard L. Crone, had not presented sufficient evidence to prove his contention that city officials had conspired against him because of his earlier political work.

“Justice doesn’t always work, but that’s our system,” commented Crone, who retired from the Bridgeport school system two years ago. “We thought we had a good case.”

Following the court victory, Crone filed a lawsuit against then Supt. of Schools James Connelly, former police chief Thomas Sweeney and the two police detectives responsible for his arrest.

He claimed they violated his constitutional rights---Connelly, by suspending him, and the police, by arresting him without probable cause.

And Crone, who had previously served as city clerk and ran for mayor; claimed his arrest was payback for his political activities.

The case went to trial in July 2001. Crone testified that when he ran for mayor 13 years earlier, during that campaign he had been critical of Connelly as superintendent.

In addition, he said, while he was city clerk Connelly had inquired whether there was anything improper about Crone holding that position while he was also working as a full time teacher. Crone testified that he believed the incidents were the basis for Connelly’s investigation of the student’s complaints.

But Sweeney and the two police officers said they never talked to Connelly about any prior incidents with Crone.

The Superior Court jury dead-locked 4 to 2 on a verdict. Judge Edward F. Stodolink then granted a motion dismissing the case.

Stodolink ruled that the police officals did not have probable cause for Crone’s arrest and that no evidence was presented showing the officers acted with malice in arresting him or that Crone suffered severe harm from the arrest.

“Judge Stodolink based his decision on evidence in the case; Mr. Connelly and the other defendants did nothing but their jobs to protect the children of the City of Bridgeport,” added Arthur C. Laske III, who represented Connelly.