Politicians support Hapgood with a letter as Anguilla court date approaches

Darien’s Scott Hapgood wipes away a tear beside his wife, Kallie Hapgood, during a rally in October outside Darien Town Hall.

Darien’s Scott Hapgood wipes away a tear beside his wife, Kallie Hapgood, during a rally in October outside Darien Town Hall.

Tyler Sizemore / Hearst Connecticut Media

Senator Richard Blumenthal, along with several other local and national officials, have signed off on a letter for Darien’s Scott Hapgood as his Anguilla court date approaches.

Following a rally held outside of Darien’s Town Hall hosted by Blumenthal, the senator has released a letter to Secretary of State Michael Pompeo expressing concerns for the “safety and fair treatment” of Scott Hapgood as he is scheduled to return to Anguilla on Friday, Nov. 8.

“We request the State Department do everything in its power to ensure that Mr. Hapgood’s safety is secured while traveling to and from Anguilla and during his stay on the island for the inquest,” the letter said.

“We futher request that the State Department express its strongest concern and expectation to the British Government that the inquest — and any other legal proceeding in Anguilla — be conducted fairly and openly. Such proceeding should accord Mr. Hapgood all rights of due process and basic safeguards of fundamental justice, including the right to return to the United Sates during the pendency of any judicial proceeding,” he wrote.

The letter is signed by Blumenthal, Sen. Chris Murphy, Sen. Robert P. Casey, Sen. Joe Manchin, Sen. Lindsey Graham, and Congressman Jim Himes.

Hapgood, 44, charged with manslaughter in the death of a hotel worker while he was vacationing with his family last spring in Anguilla, is supposed to return to the Caribbean island on Nov. 11 for his next court appearance.

But many say his safety is at risk.

“As a parent of five children myself, I know, we all know, that Scott did what any parent would do … protect his children from a highly intoxicated and crazed man,” Darien First Selectman Jayme Stevenson said during the rally outside Town Hall on Oct. 28.

“We are here today to stand with the Hapgood family as a community and to ask for transparency, fairness in the judicial process and safe passage for Scott as he travels back to Anguilla in two weeks.”

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An emotional Hapgood thanked the gathering of about 100 who attended the rally for their support.

“As incredibly difficult as this has been, on days like this, I am reminded how much support we have from friends, family and the community,” he said. “The community support gives my family strength.

“We are still in shock that a simple vacation we had been looking forward to turned into a nightmare.”

As Hapgood described how his life has changed since April, his voice broke with emotion.

“I’ve not been allowed to work — not return to the job I’ve had for 20 years. I’ve been disqualified from coaching my kids’ teams — that gave me purpose,” he said.

Hapgood said he hopes with a “fair and balanced review of the facts” the charges against him should be dismissed.

The Hapgood family has said the Darien man was defending himself and his young children after hotel worker Kenny Mitchel came to their room to fix a bathroom sink while they were on vacation in April.

Hapgood contended the sink was never broken and no one called for someone to come to their room, but he trusted Mitchel because he was wearing a hotel uniform.

A revised autopsy report, based on new toxicology tests, determined Mitchel died from a lethal dose of cocaine and not from injuries he sustained in the fight, according to a recent story by The New York Times.

The report described cocaine levels in Mitchel’s bloodstream “twice that commonly accepted to have a fatal outcome,” causing his lungs to fill with blood and suffocating him.

The revised report supports the defense’s claim Mitchel was allegedly behaving erratically and aggressively — common side effects for that level of drug use.

At the rally, Blumenthal described what happened to the Hapgood family as “every American’s worst nightmare.”

“We live in a great country that guarantees fairness and transparency — an American abroad should receive no less,” he said Monday.

Blumenthal said since the incident he has been working with the State Department and officials in Anguilla as well as the United Kingdom.

“This has nothing to do with politics and nothing to do with partisan politics. Whatever our differences, we stand behind the Hapgood family,” he said.

Blumenthal expressed concerns with Anguilla’s legal process — including closed-door meetings, a delay on evidence such as the updated toxicology report, and the lack of a guarantee for Scott Hapgood’s security.

“We’re here today to stand in support of Scott Hapgood, and ask for fairness and transparency in this process,” Blumenthal said. “We want fair and transparent proceedings and safety for Scott Hapgood as he goes through those proceedings.”

“We are going to be sparing no efforts to ensure Scott Hapgood is given his basic rights,” he said.

State Sen. Carlo Leone, D-27th, said a family vacation should result in good times and positive memories — and a safe return — and “not the stories we are now living.”

“We have to remain together as a community — it applies the pressure on Anguilla and the British Parliament to stand with us and make sure the rule of law stands,” he said.

State Rep. Terrie Wood, R-141st, said she has known Hapgood for many years in also calling for his “safe passage and a fair and transparent process.”

“I’ve watched Scott grow up, and by virtue of the people here, it is clear the impact that he has made on this community,” she said.

Hapgood’s story was featured this month on Fox & Friends and President Donald Trump tweeted afterward that he would look into the case.

“Will be looking into the Scott Hapgood case, and the Island of Anguilla,” Trump tweeted. “Something looks and sounds very wrong. I know Anguilla will want to see this case be properly and justly resolved!”

After the release of the letter, the Hapgood family issued a statement.

“We remain grateful to Senator Blumenthal and his co-signatories, Senators Christopher Murphy, Jerry Moran, Lindsey O. Graham, Robert P. Casey Jr, Joe Manchin III and Congressman Jim Himes, for their efforts to secure safe passage for Scott. Although we are all concerned about Scott’s safety in Anguilla, it is reassuring to have our government behind us in such a public and steadfast way,” they said.