The Enfield State’s Attorney’s Office Monday decided not to pursue domestic violence charges leveled against one of Connecticut’s most prominent land use attorneys, and dismissed its case against Dwight Merriam.
Merriam, a longtime partner at Robinson & Cole, is now on leave from the firm. He was arrested May 1 for alleged domestic violence against his Russian fiancee. Simsbury police charged the 72-year-old Merriam, who is also a member of the Connecticut Law Tribune’s Editorial Board, with third-degree assault and disorderly conduct. Police said Merriam chased his fiancee around the house and assaulted her with a frying pan. The police report also stated that Merriam left a softball-sized red mark with purple overtones on her hip.
Merriam offered apologies for the incident via a joint press release with an attorney representing the woman, who was not named in the police report. He said he was looking forward to getting back to work, according to the statement released by his attorney, Anne Dranginis of Pullman & Comley.
“I’m sorry for the hurt and embarrassment suffered by those closest to me—my family and friends, the law firm where I have been for over 40 years, and the organizations and institutions I have served and supported,” Merriam said in the statement. “I have apologized directly to all of them for any negative attention that this incident has caused to them, and I appreciate their support of me while we have resolved this case. With this exoneration, I look forward to getting back to the work I love. If there is any good to come of this, and I think there is, it is that the law works as intended.”
James Bergenn, the Shipman & Goodwin attorney who represented Merriam’s fiancee, used the press release to dispute details of the police report.
“There were no bruises caused, no chase around the house and no assault,” Bergenn wrote. “When the stress subsided, a medical examination confirmed that there was no bruising and that miscommunications contributed to the misunderstanding by the police, including their belief that a frying pan was somehow involved. So, an unfortunate situation was made worse, devastating for all concerned.”
The Simsbury Police Department’s spokesman, Lt. Thomas Sheehan, did not respond to a request for comment Monday.
The Merriam case was handled by Chris Parakilas of the Enfield State’s Attorney’s Office. Parakilas also did not respond to a request for comment.
Any final decision on Merriam returning to Robinson & Cole would rest in part with the firm’s managing partner, Stephen Goldman.
Goldman did not respond to a request for comment, but at the time of the incident called the allegations against Merriam “shocking and extremely disturbing.” Robinson & Cole has nine offices in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island, Florida and California. The partner is one of about 200 attorneys at the firm that placed 183rd on The American Lawyer’s 2017 Am Law 200 ranking of firms based on size.
Merriam is a Yale-educated litigator who founded Robinson & Cole’s land use group in 1978, and was a member of the firm’s real estate development group, according to its website. He is a veteran attorney with more than four decades of experience representing property owners, developers, governments and individuals in zoning appeals, condemnation actions, cases involving the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, and other matters.
The police report stated that Merriam met his fiancee at the University of Connecticut Law School, where he was a professor. The pair started dating in 2013, and he “paid for all of her school tuition,” according to the police report.
The woman told police she’d sign a prenuptial agreement to protect Merriam’s assets if the couple married, and that the attorney would pay her $50,000 to return to Russia if they separated. She told police Merriam refused to pay her the money, causing the argument to escalate.