Gallo chosen as Litchfield County’s next state’s attorney
Winsted native emerged on top out of 5 finalists
BY BRIGITTE RUTHMAN REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN
October 11, 2019
Dawn M. Gallo has been selected as the new State’s Attorney for Litchfield County. Republican-American archive
HARTFORD – Supervisory Assistant State’s Attorney Dawn M. Gallo on Friday emerged on top out of five candidates peppered with questions about their ambitions to become Litchfield County’s next state’s attorney.
“It’s an honor, a privilege and I will do my very best,” Gallo said moments after receiving word of her new job at Torrington Superior Court, effective immediately for the $163,000 job.
All five candidates answered questions for five hours at the Legislative Office Building. Queries ranged from identifying their own perceived weaknesses to explaining how best to make criminal prosecutions more transparent.
Gallo, a Winsted native, said she cares deeply about the communities where she has lived and worked throughout a career that began as a deputy assistant state’s attorney in Bantam Court.
“People know I am accessible to them,” she said. “I firmly believe it has fostered a legitimate trust.”
Torrington criminal defense attorney William A. Conti, former head of the county’s bar association, praised the Criminal Justice Commission’s 6-1 decision.
“She was picked by the Litchfield County Bar Association, she has tremendous support from law enforcement, is a proven litigator, supervisor and a person of tremendous integrity,” Conti said of Gallo.
Besides Gallo, the commission interviewed Cynthia S. Serafini, another Winsted native who works as a senior assistant state’s attorney in the Waterbury judicial district; Supervisory Assistant State’s Attorney Charles M. Stango of the Ansonia-Milford judicial district; Supervisory Assistant State’s Attorney Catherine Brannelly in Waterbury, and James Bernardi, retired supervisory assistant state’s attorney in Stamford.
Two others who applied for the job vacated by David Shepack in July didn’t make the final cut.
Serafini emphasized her working knowledge of the Litchfield County district, which can involve some of the same defendants who are prosecuted in Waterbury courtrooms, as well as overlapping police agencies. In an ever evolving judicial system, there is a need for transparency to explain what happens during cases in what commission Justice Andrew McDonald described as a “prosecutorial black box.”
“A lot of information and misinformation gets put out to social media,” Serafini said. “It’s important for the public to have an explanation.”
Stango said the business of prosecuting fairly must remain a human one, even as computer analysis and technology become more important tools.
“It is a long tradition of autonomy to be the arbiters of justice,” he said.
Each of the candidates was asked about changes in the criminal justice system geared toward rehabilitation to reduce recidivism. Jail diversionary programs, such as drug and alcohol education programs and efforts to gain adequate housing, have proven successful, especially in light of an opioid epidemic.
“Early screening is a key to successful prosecution,” Gallo said. “Wasting time can mean setting (defendants) up for failure.”
Gallo noted Torrington has been hit hard by the heroin epidemic, a trend that calls for treatment as a component of prosecution.
“It’s a challenge to redirect thinking with these defendants,” she said. “Without treatment, they will just keep coming back.”
Gallo also was asked about unique trends in the largely rural Northwest Corner aside from the opioid epidemic.
“We do likely handle more sexual assault cases involving animals,” she said.
The commission’s seven members include Chief State’s Attorney Kevin T. Kane, who will retire at the end of the month.
Contact Brigitte Ruthman at firstname.lastname@example.org.