The attorney for Michelle Troconis, who’s charged in connection to the disappearance and death of Jennifer Dulos, wants the entire Stamford/Norwalk State’s Attorney’s Office disqualified from her case and the future trial moved to a new venue. Attorney Jon Schoenhorn filed a motion for that during a brief hearing at the Stamford courthouse Tuesday. It comes in response to prosecutors’ attempt to remove Schoenhorn as Troconis’ counsel.
Troconis arrived at court Tuesday morning with her parents, sisters and other supporters. It was her first time appearing in person, rather than virtually, in about two years since she no longer lives in Connecticut. Presumably, it was to watch Schoenhorn fight the disqualification motion filed by the state last week, which said Schoenhorn may be called as a witness to testify at his client’s trial, creating a conflict of interest. Instead, that will be addressed at a hearing Nov. 29, along with Schoenhorn’s reciprocal motion to disqualify, not just the state’s attorney’s office, but also the Connecticut State Police Western District Major Crime Squad.
At issue is how Schoenhorn obtained a box of potential evidence with a sweatshirt that may be connected to Jennifer Dulos’ presumed murder by her estranged husband, Fotis Dulos, who killed himself in January 2020 while pending trial. He was Troconis’ boyfriend at the time. His suicide left her and fellow co-defendant Kent Mawhinney to be prosecuted in the case. Troconis is charged with conspiracy to commit murder, evidence of tampering, conspiracy to commit evidence of tampering and hindering the prosecution.
“The motion to disqualify that was filed against me last week was based on a clearly attorney client privileged statement that was given to an attorney. The state police took that statement, photographed it, made use of it, and that is the sole basis for the motion to disqualify me,” Schoenhorn told News 12 after the hearing.
The alleged violation relates to a note from Schoenhorn to Tara Knight, the third-party attorney he used to turn the box over to detectives. Knight told them she was unable to tell police who gave her the box, citing attorney-client privilege. But when detectives opened it, they discovered the sweatshirt in question, tools, and a note Schoenhorn wrote to Knight saying he got the box from another attorney.
“It is a direct violation of the sixth amendment right to counsel to use statements that are known by the police to be privileged, and that’s exactly what happened here,” Schoenhorn said.
The sweatshirt resembles one worn by a cyclist spotted on security footage near Jennifer Dulos’ house the morning she was killed, May 24, 2019. The prosecution contends that person was Fotis Dulos. Investigators believe he drove to New Canaan using an employee’s truck, parked some distance from his estranged wife’s house, then rode a bicycle there and attacked her in the garage. Jennifer Dulos’ body has never been found, but the coroner concluded she could not have survived based on the blood evidence.
Schoenhorn said DNA testing on the sweatshirt didn’t come back to Fotis Dulos, but to his employee, Pawel Gumienny, and he may use that to seize the state’s theory of the crime and defend Troconis. In the state’s motion, Supervisory Assistant State’s Attorney Michelle Manning wrote, “Even if Schoenhorn is not ultimately called as a witness, he can still be disqualified since his performance as an advocate can be impaired by his relationship to the events in question.”
In court, Schoenhorn also told the judge a substantial amount of electronic discovery either hasn’t been turned over or isn’t in a format the defense can access. He filed a different motion Tuesday asking the judge to dismiss the charges or not allow the state to use any of that at Troconis’ trial.
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