A Stamford criminal defense attorney whose case was transferred to the New Haven judicial district pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges of tampering and bribing a witness.
Norwalk resident Darnell Crosland, 50, who has compared his arrest to “a modern day lynching,” stood silently before New Haven Superior Court Judge Patrick J. Clifford as his attorney, Wayne Keeney, entered the not guilty pleas on his behalf.
Clifford noted it had been decided the case would be “better handled outside that jurisdiction” of Stamford. Keeney had requested the change in venue.
During Crosland’s brief appearance, Clifford scheduled the next pretrial hearing for Jan. 23.
Although Crosland and Keeney previously were outspoken about the case — Keeney has said his client’s prosecution could cause a “chilling effect” on attorneys vigorously representing their clients — both of them declined to comment after they left the courtroom.
Crosland has been the attorney for Marquel Middleton, who faces an attempted murder charge in the shooting of Isaiah Genias in Norwalk in July 2017. According to the affidavit in Crosland’s arrest, he visited Genias in the Stamford courthouse lockup in November 2018. During that meeting, Crosland told Genias he could get him out of jail if he recanted his written statement against Middleton regarding the shooting, the affidavit said.
The affidavit also quoted Genias’ mother, who told police Crosland said he would pay Genias’ medical bills resulting from the shooting if he agreed not to testify against Middleton.
Crosland is charged with bribery of a witness, tampering with a witness and conspiracy to tamper with a witness. All three of those crimes are felonies.
Moments after Crosland’s plea was entered, another attorney who is connected to Crosland’s case, James Hardy of South Windsor, appeared in front of Clifford with his attorney, William Dow III. Dow entered not guilty pleas for Hardy on charges of tampering with a witness and conspiracy to tamper with a witness. Hardy also was able to get his case transferred to New Haven.
According to Crosland’s affidavit, Crosland told Genias, facing criminal charges in three other cases, “You no longer have a lawyer,” and then offered to get him a new one. Crosland allegedly said the “new lawyer” would be able to get him out of jail if Genias recanted his statement implicating Middleton. Crosland allegedly told Genias that his original lawyer had “fired himself.”
That lawyer, Miles Gerety, contacted police in March 2019 about Genias, who was still his client and reported a lawyer named “Hardy” had called him to say he had visited Genias in jail at the request of a member of Genias’ family. Gerety told police he had not given any other attorney permission to contact Genias.
When a Connecticut State Police detective met with Genias in jail, Genias reportedly said that on March 23, 2019, he had been led into a visitation room at the jail, where he encountered “a black male wearing a sweater, with a paperwork-style binder.”
Genias asked him: “Who are you?” and the man allegedly replied: “I’m James Hardy. Crosland informed me you needed a lawyer and sent me up here to represent you.”
According to Genias, the man repeated Crosland’s false story that Gerety had “fired himself” from representing Genias. Genias also quoted the man saying that because both of them are black, the lawyer understood how Genias felt and that he could get Genias “a better deal than Miles could” becaue he was “tight” with a state’s attorney.
Genias told the detective: “I felt that attorney Hardy came here to see me to help Middleton, not me.”
According to the affidavit for Crosland, the detective obtained a videotape from the jail showing “attorney James Hardy entering the lobby on March 23, 2019.” The tape also “shows Hardy and Genias leaving together from the meeting room,” the affidavit stated.
The affidavit also said: “Crosland attempted to have Genias hire attorney James Hardy by tricking Genias into thinking his attorney, Miles Gerety, was no longer representing him.”
After court adjourned Wednesday, Dow said: “We look forward to confronting the claim in court. Compare the affidavits of the two defendants and you’ll see a substantial lack of evidence against my client.”