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Former Ansonia City Counsel Under Investigation After Crash

by Ethan Fry | Sep 8, 2017 4:07 pm

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Posted to: Ansonia, Ansonia Election 2017, Investigations

A candidate for the Board of Aldermen is expected to withdraw from the race as police pursue drunk driving charges against him in connection to a July 29 crash.

The candidate — former Ansonia corporation counsel Kevin Blake — allegedly smelled of alcohol and was slurring his speech after crashing into a parked car on Franklin Street.

Blake, a volunteer firefighter with a long history of public service in the Naugatuck Valley, has not been charged with anything other than a driving infraction.

However, city police reviewed their DUI investigation after The Valley Indy started asking questions about it during the past two weeks.

Police said Friday they had applied for an arrest warrant, which may or may not be approved by the court.

Blake told The Valley Indy Aug. 24 that he had been given a ticket in connection to the incident. He declined to comment on whether he had been drinking before the wreck.

The Crash

About 4:15 p.m. July 29 police were sent to 169 Franklin St. after Blake crashed his 2016 Honda CR-V into a Ford Fusion that was parked on the street.

“Before Blake exited his vehicle he could be heard stating ‘I’m f*****’,” according to a police report written by Officer Shawn Mendenhall.

Blake’s breath smelled of alcohol, Mendenhall wrote.

“Blake exited his vehicle and at the time of him exiting and speaking with EMS, I could smell the odor of an alcoholic beverage on his breath,” the report says.

“Blake stated to EMS ‘I was not aware I was involved in a motor vehicle crash,’” the report says, noting that Blake was also “swaying back and forth and slurring his speech when asked questions.”

Police also spoke to a witness who was in a yard on Franklin Street when he heard the crash. He gave a statement to cops saying Blake said he had been drinking.

“He got out of the car and was staggering all over and slurring his words, very bad,” the man told police.

The witness, a veteran and former member of the military police, said “he could tell that Blake was drunk,” the report says.

The witness did not return a phone call from a reporter.

The Investigation

Despite the alleged odor of alcohol and Blake’s behavior, officers did not conduct a field sobriety test or have him blow into a Breathalyzer.

That’s because police were worried he had a head injury from the crash.

“Airbags were deployed on the passenger side of Blake’s vehicle and due to the nature of the accident and possible head trauma, a Standardized Field Sobriety Test was not conducted,” the police report says.

Blake was taken to Griffin Hospital, according to the report, but he checked himself out against medical advice.

“A follow up at Griffin Hospital was done where staff advised that Blake left on his own free will against medical advisement,” the police report says.

On Aug. 16 police obtained a search warrant for Blake’s medical records.

In DUI investigations, police often get warrants to obtain information from blood tests. Specifically, cops want the person’s blood alcohol content.

However, police initially said no one at the hospital had tested Blake’s blood for alcohol.

“The medical records did not show any test results for BAC (blood alcohol content) in Blake’s blood,” according to the police report.

The police report does not indicate the investigating officer contacted the hospital to ask about why no one tested Blake’s blood for alcohol.

Instead, the report cites hospital procedure and indicates that Blake’s blood had probably been discarded.

“Griffin Hospital Lab was contacted to see how long the blood sample is kept for,” the report says. “The lab only holds the samples for a maximum of seven days.”

The police report dated Aug. 16 stated police would issue Blake a citation for failure to drive right, an infraction punishable by up to $132 in fines.

Police released the five-page report detailing the investigation to the Valley Indy Aug. 21.

A reporter began reaching out to police with questions about the investigation, including:

  • Why police had waited two weeks to get a warrant for Blake’s blood? (a lawyer and police said the timeframe is not unusual)
  • Why police didn’t seem to know Griffin’s blood handling policies? (police said Griffin usually tests blood for alcohol as standard practice in these situations)
  • Why police didn’t place an officer at the hospital to keep an eye on Blake if he was under investigation for DUI? (there’s no written policy dictating the officer has to stay at the hospital, though an officer would have gone had the injury been serious)

The Valley Indy also reached out to Griffin Hospital Sept. 5 to learn more about the hospital’s blood handling policies connected to suspected DUIs.

Then, the case took a major turn Sept. 7.

Ansonia Police Lt. Patrick Lynch called the Valley Indy saying there had been an oversight.

Griffin Hospital had, in fact, tested Blake’s blood for alcohol after all, he said.

“We’re going to end up doing an arrest warrant for DUI,” Lynch said.

Apparently the toxicology screen performed at Griffin had been overlooked by the patrolman who reviewed the medical records, Lynch said.

On Friday (Sept. 8), Lynch said the state police controlled substances and toxicology laboratory determined Blake was just under three times the legal limit for drunk driving.

Lynch said he was putting the finishing touches on an arrest warrant he hoped to get signed Friday afternoon.

The Chief Steps In

An internal investigation has started within the police department.

“We’re investigating it and there’s going to be an internal affairs investigation done as to how the officers missed this,” Lynch said.

Lynch said that Police Chief Kevin Hale had asked for police brass to take another look at Blake’s medical records because of the serious nature of the crash.

“We did a review of the medical records just to see if there was any notation in the medical records that would bolster a DUI charge,” he said.

Cops then realized that Griffin had provided blood alcohol test results.

Lynch said Lt. Andrew Cota would look into what caused the initial oversight.

Lynch said Blake didn’t receive any preferential treatment.

“We investigated the case as we have every case in the past,” Lynch said. “Your status as a member of the city (administration) and political status takes no account into how we investigate something.”

“We investigated the case, we didn’t believe we had the records, we gave him an infraction for the motor vehicle charge we could prove,” Lynch said. “Based on the seriousness of the case we reviewed it again. This was an unfortunate oversight and it’s been rectified and we’re going to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

Political Impact

Blake is a former Seventh Ward Alderman. He later served as corporation counsel in the administration of former Mayor James Della Volpe. He was also Derby’s corporation counsel in the early days of Mayor Anita Dugatto’s administration.

Ansonia Democrats nominated Blake for the Board of Aldermen July 20.

Blake’s name was still listed on the Democrats’ campaign page as of Friday.

But Tarek Raslan, the Democratic nominee for mayor, said in an email Sept. 5 that Blake had withdrawn his candidacy for Alderman.

Democrats were looking for a replacement candidate, Raslan said.

“It’s unfortunate for us because he has a wealth of knowledge and experience volunteering for the city as a fireman and his work as the former legal counsel,” Raslan said. “Unfortunately, he will not be on the ballot in November, and we will issue an announcement when his replacement is confirmed shortly.”

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