Edmund H. Mahony and Jon Lender, Hartford (Connecticut) Courant, January 27, 2009
Repeatedly using vulgar and racial insults, Superior Court Judge E. Curtissa Cofield argued with a police officer–addressing him as “Negro trooper” at one point–who was trying to process her on a charge of drunken driving in Glastonbury last October, a police video released Monday shows.
Cofield also is heard twice on the video using the racial term “n—-.”
The state’s Judicial Review Council released the video Monday after it found cause to pursue five judicial misconduct charges against her, several of them based on what was termed disparaging, demeaning or “racially inappropriate” language.
The video shows an uncooperative Cofield continually interrupting state police Sgt. Dwight Washington, who was asking a series of questions while processing her on the DUI charge at the Glastonbury police headquarters.
At 2:17 a.m. on Oct. 10, nearly two hours into the booking at headquarters, Cofield is seated at a desk and calls her husband on her cellphone. Washington, who like Cofield is black, is standing about 3 feet away.
Her end of the conversation, in part, is: “I don’t need a ride home. . . . I’m a criminal. . . . What? What? . . . Well, they got the head n—- in charge and he . . . Which one, the head n—- in charge? . . . Washington. OK. That’s H-N-I-G. . . .”
Then she hands the phone to Washington, who talks to her husband about getting the car off the highway. Washington asks, “Do you guys have Triple-A?”
Hearing that, Cofield interjects: “Oh, no. We don’t. We’re ghetto Negroes. We don’t have Triple-A.”
Earlier, when asked if she was injured, Cofield replied: “Yeah, I am. I’m humiliated by your f—-g attitude.”
Asked if she was ill, Cofield replied, “I’m sick of being treated like a freaking Negro from the ‘hood,” and added: “Write it down, write it. Did you hear what I just said?”
Asked what her illness was, Cofield said: “Negro-itis.”
“Do you need to take any medication now?” Washington asked.
“Yeah, I need to take anti-Negro, ummm . . . ”
Washington asked if she was willing to take an intoxication test. She replied: “Mr. Negro Washington. I need to go to the bathroom, and then I will take the test.”
“It’s Sgt. Washington,” he replied, adding, “Don’t disrespect me, and I won’t disrespect you.”
At another moment, after she had given a urine sample, Cofield asked Washington: “Do you have a reading on my urine test, Negro trooper?”
Then she directed her attention to the first state trooper on the scene of her accident and asked him, “Can you tell me why you came first, and then you had to bring him [Washington]? Is it because you had to make this valid by bringing a Negro?”
Cofield was originally appointed in 1991 as the state’s first black female judge after Gov. Lowell P. Weicker Jr. nominated her and legislators confirmed her. She was last renominated by Gov. M. Jodi Rell and approved by lawmakers in 2007. Her current term expires on June 6, 2015.
About 10:45 p.m. on Oct. 9, Cofield, 60, was driving through a highway construction zone on Route 2 in Glastonbury when her car sideswiped a parked state police cruiser occupied by Trooper Michael Kowal. Prosecutor John Whalen said that the judge’s eyes were bloodshot and that she smelled of alcohol. Urine samples showed her blood alcohol content was 0.16 percent at 1 a.m. on Oct. 10 and 0.17 percent at 2:04 a.m., he said–twice the legal limit of 0.08 percent.
State legislators had been hoping to view the video, and now will be able to do so and consider whatever decision the Judicial Review Council makes. Rep. Michael Lawlor, D-East Haven, co-chairman of the legislative judicial committee, has said that lawmakers could theoretically seek Cofield’s removal.
He said Monday he believes that the council “will consider whether to recommend that she be removed as a judge. . . . I think in many ways the ball is in Judge Cofield’s court to convince them that she deserves to remain on the bench. I think if any legislator, any judge, any prosecutor, any police officer, did the exact same thing . . . they probably would end up losing their job.”