State’s Attorney probing alleged racist texts
BRIDGEPORT — Bridgeport State’s Attorney John Smriga has launched an investigation into allegations that recently retired Police Captain Mark Straubel is guilty of hate crimes.
But Police Chief Armando Perez has so far not turned over key evidence requested two weeks ago, Smriga said Tuesday. That includes an Internal Affairs report and allegedly racist text messages that Straubel, who is white, is accused of writing on his mobile phone that he hoped for a race war and calling African-Americans “a cancer.”
“He should have had it by now,” Perez said Tuesday when reached for comment. “That frustrates me a little bit.”
The chief said that the Straubel case file was being reviewed by Bridgeport’s City Attorney and he hoped it would be in Smriga’s hands this week.
Perez also said he had previously ordered all of the data on Straubel’s phone and computer downloaded and that information will also be provided Smriga.
“And if there’s something there that implicates other members of the department, I’ll proceed immediately,” Perez said. “I will not tolerate any racially insensitive conduct in the Bridgeport Police Department.”
Straubel spent more than 20 years as one of Bridgeport’s Finest, most recently as a right hand man to Perez.
The chief placed Straubel on paid administrative leave in July after Ken Kubel, a retired Bridgeport police sergeant who now works for the Stratford police, filed a complaint about Straubel in June with Bridgeport’s Internal Affairs office.
Straubel retired Aug. 13 — before, Perez said, Internal Affairs completed its probe.
A few days later, state and local NAACP leaders asked Chief State’s Attorney Kevin Kane to launch his own investigation.
On Sept. 5, Kane in an email to NAACP leaders wrote that Smriga, State’s Attorney for the Fairfield Judicial District, was seeking information about Straubel from the city’s police department.
Smriga in a brief interview Tuesday confirmed he had requested the Internal Affairs report directly from Perez two weeks ago and is still waiting for it. Smriga also said there is some confusion surrounding the availability of Straubel’s alleged racist texts.
“I have also asked that a forensic analysis of the phone that was the source of the messages be conducted,” Smriga said.
Tamara Lanier, who is in charge of criminal justice matters for the Connecticut NAACP, said Tuesday that after a recent conversation with Smriga, she fears that the alleged texts are no longer available.
“This is very concerning to me because, absent those text messages, I don’t know how they’re going to bring a case,” Lanier said Tuesday.
But Perez insisted that is not the situation: “We seized all his (Straubel’s) electronics.”
State NAACP President Scot Esdaile said he is frustrated with the pace of Bridgeport’s response to Kane and to Smriga.
“You’re talking about someone (Straubel) who wants to create a race war, wanting to hurt and harm people of color,” Esdaile said. “This guy’s still out there. He got all the benefits of a retirement. No accountability at all.”
“We are totally transparent,” Perez said. “Let the chips fall where they may.”