Newly sworn-in U.S. Attorney for Connecticut Deirdre Daly is doing more than just talking about her plans to make fighting violent crime a top priority.
She’s already building on initiatives currently in place to end gang violence and hinting at future announcements of additional anti-crime task forces that are being created. Daly, 54, of Fairfield had been acting U.S. Attorney since May 14, 2013, when her predessesor David Fein resigned. She was nominated by President Barack Obama in March and sworn in on May 28 for a four-year term.
One of the most important of those is Project Longevity. The program, which aims to reduce gun violence in Connecticut’s major cities, was launched right before Fein’s departure.
The “homegrown” initiative started in New Haven, but is now also running in Bridgeport and Hartford. To curb violence, law enforcement, social service providers and community members are recruited, assembled and trained to develop and engage in sustained relationships with gang members.
“Through the assistance of federal agencies and local police departments we accumulate data in these three cities related to homicide and shootings,” Daly explained. “[We] determine which groups are responsible for that violence and reach out to members of those groups and tell them to stop the violence.”
The message to them, she said, is: “If you stop the violence, we’ll provide assistance through social services, education, housing, jobs, and if you don’t put down the guns, then both federal and state law enforcement officers will prioritize your gang in terms of prosecutions for violent acts, narcotics, parole violations…”
Daly said Connecticut is the first state in the country to now commit to this type of project in its major cities throughout the state, as opposed to just a pilot program in one city.
“This effort is one of our most important and significant outreach initiatives,” said Daly. “I’m not suggesting it is a silver bullet that will solve all violent activity in these three cities but combined with traditional law enforcement efforts, shootings have gone down. It’s still not as low as we’d like them to be but there is continual progress.”
‘Smart on Crime’
In the past year, Daly has supervised the prosecution of drug defendants arrested as part of Operation Bloodline. The U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Drug Enforcement Administration and other law enforcement agencies rounded up 105 defendants following a massive investigation into narcotics sales and gang violence in New Haven. Daly credits the positive partnerships with federal law enforcement agencies and state and local police departments in making these initiatives possible.
Another focus of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Connecticut, according to Daly, will be carrying out the U.S. Attorney General’s Smart on Crime Initiative. At the directive of AG Eric Holder, the initiative aims to identify reforms that would ensure federal laws are enforced more fairly and—in an era of reduced budgets—more efficiently. Five goals were identified as a part of this endeavor.
The first of those aims is to ensure resources are devoted to the most important law enforcement priorities such as violent crime, national security threats, financial fraud and protecting vulnerable members of society such as children. This correlates directly with what Daly said were her priorities as U.S. Attorney.
Further, the initiative looks to promote fairer enforcement of the laws and alleviate disparate impacts of the criminal justice system, to ensure just punishments for low-level, nonviolent convictions, to bolster prevention and reentry efforts to deter crime and reduce recidivism.
These initiatives may not be all bad for defense lawyers who will be dealing with the Daly-led U.S. Attorney’s Office in the coming months and years. Daly said, per the Smart on Crime Initiative, she would be working with Connecticut’s federal defender Terence Ward on a new clemency review process.
“Our office together with the public defenders will look back at some of the cases in which nonviolent defendants received very long term incarceration to see if any of them would be appropriate for clemency,” Daly said. “There’s a very specific criteria that the AG has spelled out.”
To qualify for clemency, she said, a defendant must be currently serving a federal sentence in prison and likely would have received a substantially lower sentence if convicted of the same crime today; is a non-violent, low-level offender without significant ties to large scale criminal organizations, gangs or cartels; has served at least 10 years of their prison sentence; does not have a significant criminal history; has demonstrated good conduct in prison; and has no history of violence prior to or during their current term of imprisonment.
Daly said it’s too early to tell how many cases will come out of this clemency effort in Connecticut.
As the federal government looks to provide directives of its law enforcement on how to be more efficient given budgetary restraints nowadays, Daly acknowledged that the past year was especially challenging due to the sequester.
Daly previously said last fall’s partial government shutdown delayed criminal investigations and civil cases. She said a key wiretap investigation had to be put off and criminal prosecutors worked without pay. Prosecutors handling civil court cases asked judges to put them on hold. There were also furloughs for members of the office’s support staff.
“We were down about 10 percent in terms of lawyers and we weren’t able to fill those positions,” said Daly. “There’s no question that without a full support we were not able to be as productive as we otherwise would have been. I don’t think it undermined any of our significant priorities but in addition to the fact that people were kept home and we were unable to fill positions, it was deeply demoralizing. These are hardworking public servants…’
Daly, who oversees 64 attorneys and 60 additional support staff, said things are lookng financially better for her office these days.
“We are in fact currently hiring,” said Daly. “We hope to hire a number of lawyers to fill openings that currently exist in the office. We’re in the process of doing that now.”
Before being named to serve as an interim and acting U.S. Attorney in Connecticut prior to her appointment, Daly served as the First Assistant U.S. Attorney from July 2010 to May 2013.
“I’m deeply appreciative of the opportunity to be the U.S. Attorney in this state and I’m very happy to be able to continue working with the talented and dedicated attorneys and staff in this office,” Daly said.
Daly took over when U.S. Attorney Fein stepped down to return to private practice.
Daly received her law degree in 1984 from Georgetown University Law Center and began her law career as a law clerk for Judge Lloyd MacMahon of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York from 1984 to 1985. She next served as an assistant U.S. attorney in the Southern District of New York from 1985 to 1997, prosecuting cases ranging from racketeering, murder, narcotics and money laundering to fraud, corruption and police brutality.
She spent more than a decade in private practice, working for the New York’s Gage & Pavlis from 1997 to 2001. She was the partner with her husband, Alfred Pavlis, in the Connecticut law firm Daly & Pavlis from 2001 to 2010. That firm focused on corporate and commercial litigation, white-collar criminal investigations, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission enforcement actions, and corporate internal investigations and monitoring.
“I’ve been a prosecutor for a long time and I’ve also had the perspective of being a criminal defense lawyer,” said Daly. “I think both of those are assets in my current position.
In particular she said having the perspective of both a defense lawyer and prosecutor will help in determining “what’s a fair and just result” in a particular case.•