HARTFORD — The state Judicial Branch is investigating what a judge said to a Hartford police officer during a dispute last month over a parking space at a Broad Street court building.
Judge Thelma Santos, 69, has been transferred from the juvenile court to 95 Washington St., although she is continuing to work on decisions from the juvenile court, said Rhonda Stearley-Hebert, a spokeswoman for the Judicial Department.
“We are aware of an incident involving Judge Santos,” she said Thursday. “An internal investigation is underway.”
The incident occurred about 10 a.m. on Jan. 23 and involved Officer James Prignano, who was at the juvenile courthouse at 920 Broad St. when, according to his report on the incident, Santos approached him inside the building and told him he had parked his patrol car in a spot reserved for judges.
“Santos stated that I ‘better move the vehicle right now’ and that she had people waiting on her,” according to the report.
Prignano wrote that he was retrieving his handgun from a locker at the time and that Santos said, “you don’t have time for goodbyes, come move the vehicle now.” When a judicial marshal told Santos that Prignano he was retrieving his gun, she responded, according to the report, “I might use it on him.”
Prignano wrote in his report that while Santos seemed to be upset, “she appeared to say that comment in jest.”
Santos and Prignano then walked into the parking lot and continued to talk. Santos told the officer, according to his report, that there are very few parking spaces and that when one person parks in the wrong spot, “everyone else is thrown off.”
“Santos appeared to calm down,” Prignano continued, “and pointed to the appropriate parking spots for me to park the next time I go to the courthouse.”
A short time later, Prignano wrote in his report, he received a call from Edwin Ingraham in the prosecutor’s office who said that judicial marshals had told him what Santos said and that they viewed the comments as inappropriate and “borderline threatening.”
“I stated to Ingraham that I felt Santos’ behavior was inappropriate but did not feel threatened by her comments,” Prignano wrote. He also noted that he prepared his report to document the incident since so many people were in the courthouse lobby when it occurred.
Stearley-Hebert said employees reported the incident up the chain of command until it reached management in the judicial department. The investigation was begun to determine whether Santos violated any judicial department policies.
Neither Santos nor her lawyer, James Wade of Hartford, could be reached for comment Thursday.
Kevin Brookman, a Hartford blogger who first reported the incident, wrote in his We The People blog that Santos and Wade subsequently went to police headquarters so that Santos could apologize to Prignano.
An official at the Judicial Review Council, which investigates allegations of misconduct by judges, said she could neither confirm nor deny that a complaint had been filed against Santos.
Should the internal investigation find Santos violated judicial department policies, the chief court administrator could admonish her.