Why Norm Pattis cannot discuss Jennifer Dulos disappearance for 40 years

Attorney Norm Pattis agues for Fotis Dulos who is arraigned on murder and kidnapping charges in Stamford Superior Court on January 8, 2020, in Stamford. Dulos had been previously charged with evidence tampering in the disappearance of his wife, Jennifer Dulos.

Attorney Norm Pattis agues for Fotis Dulos who is arraigned on murder and kidnapping charges in Stamford Superior Court on January 8, 2020, in Stamford. Dulos had been previously charged with evidence tampering in the disappearance of his wife, Jennifer Dulos.

Erik Trautmann / Hearst Connecticut Media

FARMINGTON — Attorneys Norm Pattis and Kevin Smith have agreed to not discuss the Jennifer Dulos disappearance for the next four decades as part of a lawsuit settlement over legal fees they received weeks before their client’s suicide, according to a settlement awaiting the approval of a probate court judge.

The New Haven attorneys, who represented Fotis Dulos on murder, kidnapping and other charges in his estranged wife’s death and disappearance, have agreed to pay their former client’s estate $137,500 to avoid the lawsuit going to trial this week, according to the settlement obtained by Hearst Connecticut Media.

A trustee for Jennifer Dulos’ family and the administrator of Fotis Dulos’ estate sued Pattis and Smith over a $255,769 retainer they received after their client was charged with murder in January 2020.

Attorney Christopher Hug, the administrator of Fotis Dulos’ estate, and the trustee, attorney Mark Dean, filed a lawsuit against Pattis and Smith on the grounds they only represented Fotis Dulos on the murder charge for 17 days before he died.

They were seeking the retainer to be returned so Fotis Dulos’ estate can pay creditors, including Gloria Farber, the mother of Jennifer Dulos who was awarded $2 million in a civil suit she filed against her son-in-law.

The lawsuit’s settlement agreement was filed this month with the Farmington Regional Probate Court. In the 16-page document, Hug contends that all parties, including Farber, Pattis and Smith, have agreed to the terms.

The agreement, if approved by Probate Judge Evelyn Daly and signed by all parties, would prohibit anyone involved from commenting on the settlement other than confirming they have consented to the plan, the filing shows. The parties also cannot publicly disparage each other, according to the agreement.

Under the terms, Pattis and Smith will return $137,500 in exchange for the lawsuit to be dropped.

Pattis and Smith will be prohibited from discussing any evidence or opinions on Fotis Dulos, Jennifer Dulos, Farber or the five Dulos children, according to the agreement. The attorneys are required to turn over any files, documents, evidence or personal effects from their representation of Fotis Dulos within 30 days of the settlement’s approval, the document said.

Pattis and Smith are also banned from discussing the two remaining co-defendants in the case, Michelle Troconis, the former girlfriend of Fotis Dulos, and Kent Mawhinney, his former friend and attorney. Troconis and Mawhinney have each pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to commit murder and their cases remain pending.

The prohibition includes “providing recollections, or writings, appearing for interviews, and/or cooperating or providing information directly or indirectly related to any book, magazine article, television or film production or any other type of media publication,” the document said.

However, Pattis and Smith can cooperate with police and prosecutors involved in the case, according to the agreement.

The terms of the non-disclosure are in effect until Dec. 31, 2060, the agreement said.

Pattis vigorously defended Fotis Dulos in the death and disappearance of his estranged wife, who was last seen on May 24, 2019. Pattis regularly discussed the case with the media and drew sharp criticism for his alternative theories of what may have happened to Jennifer Dulos.

Pattis said Jennifer Dulos may have staged her own disappearance to frame his client, comparing it to the plot of the “Gone Girl” novel. Pattis also suggested she may have died from a “revenge suicide” to get back at his client as the couple were embroiled in a contentious two-year divorce and custody battle.

Pattis’ comments were one of the factors that led a Superior Court judge to issue a gag order, limiting what was said about the case outside of the courtroom. Pattis appealed the gag order to the state Supreme Court, which dropped the appeal after Fotis Dulos died.

Police said Fotis Dulos became a suspect in the days after his estranged wife’s disappearance. Arrest warrants indicated police found Fotis Dulos’ DNA mixed with his estranged wife’s blood on the faucet of a sink in her New Canaan home.

Police said they believe Fotis Dulos was “lying in wait” for his estranged wife to return home from dropping off their children at school the morning of May 24, 2019, according to arrest warrants.

Police said Jennifer Dulos was attacked in her garage and is presumed dead based on the blood and other evidence they found, arrest warrants state. While her remains have never been found, the state’s chief medical examiner said she would not have survived the attack without immediate medical attention.

The night of the disappearance Fotis Dulos and Troconis were captured on Hartford surveillance footage making a series of stops, arrest warrants stated. Fotis Dulos was seen dumping bags, some of which were later recovered and contained his estranged wife’s blood and clothing, according to arrest warrants.

Police said they also found Jennifer Dulos’ blood on the seat of a pickup truck, which belonged to one of Fotis Dulos’ employees, that they believe was used the day of the crime, the arrest warrants state.