Justice Denied: Political Influence Taints Two Connecticut Families Forever

 

“Lead us not into temptation. Just tell us where it is; we’ll find it.” Sam Levenson

More twists and turns than any case one can remember, this 2004 Connecticut criminal case, followed by a civil  case, followed by still another criminal case is jaw dropping in the totality of events. The tale of Neil Esposito and Heather Specyalski could very well rival the events of the Monica Lewinski affair and top any of the offerings on the Jerry Springer or Dr. Phil shows.

What occurs when the people involved are affluent? What happens when they have political influence with a former Governor and had contributed to campaigns and other philanthropic endeavors? What is the price to be paid when medical examiners and world-class pathologists can be bought and state police doubted?

Is it right for state employees to interfere with the judicial process by “picking up the phone and exerting pressure?”  What occurs when the reason for the death involves irresponsible, dangerous and X rated behavior? What is the consequence when the survivor suffers life threatening injuries and is never the same?  

Should the victim be memorialized with taxpayers dollars signed off by the legislature after having contributed to his own death? In a final chapter, what would today’s public say when the defendant is accused of another crime of a relative, which truly ended in a suicide?   

My blog will attempt to hit the highlights and lowlights of this very complex scenario.

Case Background:

The defendant, a girlfriend, model, and divorced mother was 29 years old. Her boyfriend, affluent trash hauler, entrepreneur, Neil Esposito, 42 years old. They had been to a Halloween gala, imbibed too much and used very bad judgement that would be written in Connecticut law journals forever!

In the wee hours of Saturday morning, October  31, 1999, they were cruising at 120 mph down Route 9, driving north, taking the I-91 exit when someone lost control of the car, police said. The car went off the road and into the woods, striking several trees before overturning. Neither driver nor passenger were wearing seatbelts and had been drinking.

The crux of the criminal case rested on who was driving.  Mr. Esposito was the recipient of oral sex as they were traveling down the highway!!

Initially the Connecticut State Police ruled in it’s investigation that Mr. Esposito was driving during “the act.” In the meantime, two lawsuits were underway, charging damages to the Mercedes Benz Corporation by Neil’s father, Raymond. The second suit was brought by Specyalski to Esposito’s estate  in 2000, claiming he was the driver. (She had significant life threatening injuries).

Ms. Specyalski was to stand trial for manslaughter. Two weeks after the estate lawsuit, police reversed their findings regarding who was driving.

The 2004 criminal trial lasted 19 days in which Heather Specyalski was charged  with  manslaughter. The State Police initial investigation ruled that Neil Esposito was driving, due to the position of the body, his clothing and other factors.  In addition, the testimony of an expert witness stated that the gash on the outside of Specyalski’s left thigh could only have been caused by the gear shift on the car’s center console — an injury she could not have gotten if she were in the driver’s seat. The outcome was an hour deliberation and an acquittal, sparing her a 25 year prison sentence.

Father, Raymond Esposito, exerted his influence on a Governor Rowland assistant. A phone call was made to Dr. Henry Lee and (Voila!) the case was magically re-opened due to inconsistencies.

More fall out of the professional kind-First, Arkady Katsnelson, was an associate medical examiner who was proven to have been the recipient of a bribe amounting to $300.00 for advice regarding the civil lawsuit against Heather Specyalski.  Secondly,  while awaiting the civil trial, renowned pathologist Cyril Wecht was supposed to testify that Neil Esposito was in the passenger seat. However,  he was prohibited from testifying due to an 84-count federal indictment issued in Pennsylvania in January 2006, charging him with allegedly using government resources to benefit his practice.

Newspaper accounts state that the defense team for Hether Specyalski claim the oral sex rarely surfaced during the trial, but prosecutors seized on the silacial, as it was an element to create reasonable doubt. Whereas in a civil trial, it’s about the preponderance of evidence presented.

The civil wrongful death lawsuit by Raymond Esposito against Heather Specyalski was abruptly withdrawn and a settlement was reached just minutes before the start of the proceedings in January 2006. The senior Esposito and his wife spent much time and effort trying to protect the assets and endeavors of Neil Esposito. They were crushed with grief.

When the litigation was over, Heather Specyalski said from Waterbury Superior Court, It’s over!” Her father tried to hush her, but she wouldn’t be quieted. Finally, she’d be able to be herself, do as she pleased. She could plan for tomorrow. Her plan was to buy a lot in Ashford, CT  and build a house by the pond for herself and her son.

No, It’s Wasn’t Over!

Heather Specyalski

On March 13, 2013 Specyalski was on  trial on a manslaughter charge and fighting to stay out of prison with a potential maximum sentence of 46 years. These charges  involved  the overdose death of her son, 15-year-old Brandon Specyalski, who died at his mother’s home in August of 2008 from a combination of alcohol and drugs.

She was charged with negligent homicide, tampering with evidence, and three counts of risk of injury to a minor.  Prosecutors said she caused Brandon’s death because she bought him and his friends alcohol the night of Aug. 23 and allowed Brandon to take her prescription drugs. However, she stated she went to the store to purchase snacks, brought him a blanket and pillow as he was sleeping in the back seat of the car and that he took prescription drugs from her purse, unbeknownst to her, thus committing suicide.

Ultimately, Heather was acquitted again!  On March 21, 2013, she looked up at the jury and cried.  She later stated, “Freedom is the most amazing thing until it’s threatened.”

PostScript –

Hartford lawyer Richard R. Brown, a former state prosecutor speaking about the 2004 criminal trial  said he would have terminated the case after both troopers testified. “These were two troopers who sincerely believed what they were saying,” Brown said. “It’s a tie, and a tie always goes to the defense.”

Neil Esposito’s son, Raymond Esposito, 15 at the time of Neil’s death, was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes in 1996. Neil created the Raynbow Foundation and raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to find a cure for the disease.  Prior to his death, Neal  was in the process of planning a New Year’s Eve gala for hundreds at the Hartford Armory to raise money for the foundation, which his friends pledged to continue.

Heather’s resulting medical injuries began with a coma, (often a protective state for healing), numerous surgeries including gall bladder, kidney, bladder staph infections, hip problems, with use of a wheelchair as needed. She was able to resume walking  and driving in 2008.

In the year 2000, the Connecticut legislature voted to name one of the hundreds of bridges after Neil Esposito. A small green reflective sign seen by commuters daily on Interstate 91 North in Wethersfield, CT.

Helen Ubinas, former ace reporter for the Hartford Courant, interviewed Ann and Raymond Esposito in the aftermath of their son’s death and their considerable efforts to do what they could to preserve this name, waging many legal battles. In a January 26, 2006 article, Anne told Helen she would visit her son at the cemetery and tell him, “I hope it ended the way he would have wanted,”  Helen then asked  them?  “Did it end the way you and your husband wanted? Are they really satisfied?” Anne looked down and said, ”The lawyers tell us to say we are.”

Conclusion

There was so much damage done to so many family members in this case. What occurred overshadows the good about fallible people. Even James Dean would have to say, fast cars and fast women aren’t worth it in the end. Temptation can be evil, or your entry card to heaven.

References https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/temptation.html

http://articles.courant.com/2004-04-30/news/0404300842_1_quick-verdict-criminal-case-reasonable-doubt

http://articles.courant.com/1999-10-31/news/9910310062_1_greater-hartford-juvenile-diabetes-research-hauler

http://articles.courant.com/2004-04-30/news/0404300842_1_quick-verdict-criminal-case-reasonable-doubt

http://articles.courant.com/2006-01-25/news/0601250701_1_esposito-family-family-s-lawyers-superior-court

http://articles.courant.com/2006-01-26/news/0601260932_1_son-s-death-court-date-neil-esposito

http://starkravingviking.blogspot.com/2006/01/blow-job-governor-and-states-police.html

http://articles.courant.com/2008-12-23/community/hc-specyalski1223.artdec23_1_heather-specyalski-specyalski-home-neil-esposito


DonnaGore-2

To schedule Donna R. Gore for your next conference, seminar or event, please contact ImaginePublicity.Phone: 843-808-0859 or Email: contact@imaginepublicity.com

You can find me here, please follow or friend! Facebook,  Shattered Lives,  Twitter, LinkedIn

 

My Lily Pad

bull-frog-2525989_960_720
When you are at my juncture and status in life, it can sometimes be a rollercoaster. Too often, as a single person with no feedback to rely on, I have trouble mentally balancing it all. I tend to lament about my multiple responsibilities and simultaneously think that things aren’t happening quickly enough.

Sometimes, when you have climbed the first, second, and third rung up the ladder of success, you think to yourself, “I’ve definitely paid my dues. It’s been so long at this 24/7 journey. I have sacrificed much, spent oodles of time, effort, energy and money. Why hasn’t “X” happened yet?”

It’s during those times that I can’t see the forest for the trees because I’m too close to it. In addition, my goals have changed over time. I’ve never wanted to be the Oprah of Crime or the person on the talk show circuit. That’s when a trusted person, who has also been along for the ride, steps in to provide objectivity and remind me that there has been tremendous progress and that there were never any promises made of instant or guaranteed success no matter how hard you work! This last part is a bitter pill to swallow, for I have succeeded all my life with dogged perseverance, drive and resilience.

Having an online presence of any importance is indeed an adventure that is constantly changing, most often without an end destination. I now realize through trial and error and a lot of guidance, that if you can’t ride the wave, maybe you shouldn’t surf!

When I embarked on my public relations- social media partnership in 2010, I knew something about marketing in terms of event planning but the rest was all new to me, especially social media. What should I expect from a publicist?

I was flattered that I was taken on as a client with ImaginePublicity, and that my talents were recognized. It was cool to have a publicist and the fact that I didn’t have to be famous to deserve one! In fact, I wrote a little satirical blog imagining what the role of a publicist must be, called, Life in the Cockpit at Imagine Publicity.

I was now in the company of high profile activists, advocates, authors and more.

Fast forward to 2017. When I scan the landscape at ImaginePublicity, I see many permutations of Donna R. Gore on a weekly, monthly,  and daily basis. I’ve grown in many areas of social media, written hundreds of blogs, published my first book about homicide in an anthology series, created my national radio show with a quality 5 year track record, actively participate as a Connecticut State Outreach Coordinator for the Cue Center for Missing Persons.  I’ve done book signings, newspaper interviews, presentations and speaking engagements, all which I have proudly pursued in the name of creating a better path for others!

Recently, I looked at my journey from this perspective and I think I have a great lily pad in comparison to where I started in 2010! I would never try to say I’m top frog in the neighborhood, for that’s not my goal. However, I know that I’m someone who has achieved great heights from my present view on the lily pad.

Should I be content? No, for I am a voracious learner with an intellectual curiosity for diverse life experience! In the meantime, I will try to enjoy my lily pad as it is for now!

Thanks to all who have helped me along the way!


DonnaGore-2

To schedule Donna R. Gore for your next conference, seminar or event, please contact ImaginePublicity. Phone: 843-808-0859 or Email: contact@imaginepublicity.com

You can find me here, please follow or friend! Facebook,  Shattered Lives,  Twitter, LinkedIn

The Endless Pursuit of Something

Many of us want to be productive. We don’t want to miss an opportunity in life, can never seem to slow down, just because. Maybe it’s the workaholic gene, I don’t know. When I compare myself with my siblings and how we operate, there are vast differences. It’s not bad or good, but different.

Conventional wisdom says less stress, less heart disease and a plethora of other medical maladies. But, that is also somewhat determined by genetics as well. Just look at former comedian George Burns, he died at age 98, smoked 10 to 15 cigars per day for 70 years including second-hand smoke. What a great set of genes! However, for those of us in the middle of the Bell curve, I estimate we will not be quite as lucky as George burning all of those cigars.

Is This You?

 

If we are perpetually spinning our wheels, sometimes through no fault of our own, what can we do?

1) First of all, disengage in the race. The RoadRunner and Wile E Coyote just NEVER gave up!

2) Secondly, if your roost is permanent, find like people and play with them often. If your roost isn’t permanent, you can do this as well by carving out time occasionally, if you find a commonality. I’ve been told and researched the Myrtle Beach MeetUp.  However, trying to browse and get true feedback, while getting through the security was impossible and finding a group that wasn’t mostly athletically based or “”too senior focused”  was a real challenge for me. I want to know what I’m committing to before I commit. You could not get access unless you signed up. Maybe I’ll try again someday, for it is part of my future. I think a friend who is already in the system is in the best position to assist.

3) Scale down your projects such that you spend less time in your endeavor. Even if it is your passion, it doesn’t need to be 24/7. If you are a crime sleuth, and solving crimes is a hobby, realize that taking time out to do other things is not a betrayal. I was really worried about someone I met who sacrificed everything in her life in order to keep the case alive!

In 2013, a former Los Angeles homicide detective shared with The Guardian that, “Every year detectives solve anywhere between 60-70% of the cases, but only about 30-40% are from that calendar year. The rest of cases, which make up the difference, are from the previous years’ cases.

Knowing this information up front, taking a few hours off will not be seen as disloyal by the family you are helping, if there is a family, or the memory of the victim.

4) Pursue an old hobby again. As I need more physical activity even with a permanent disability, I have thought of resuming a former pastime of years ago, bike riding with a special adult tricycle. It looks like this, now with gears:  

Westport-Adult-Folding-Tricycle-1024x866

However, there is a transport issue with this kind of bike. At my Connecticut condo, there is no safe terrain to ride, nor to store it. At my Myrtle Beach condo, there is also currently nowhere to safely store it. But, I will continue to pursue this. There has to be a way!

5) Distract yourself by changing your former tried and true habits with new ones. A simple example is that the limited TV watching I do was replaced a few weeks ago. Rather than my nightly dose of ‘Law & Order,” I discovered computer access to some HGTV shows and even the “Great British Baking show” which is truly fun!

6) Learning the fine art of relaxation. There are a number of ways that work for many people. Admittedly, I have failed at finding my “inner peace” through meditation. I cannot relax my muscles due to spasticity throughout my body . My theory (or my excuse) is that it carries over to my mind.

Massage is wonderful, and I had many sessions years ago. However, the per session rate in Connecticut is, on average $100.00 per hour, too pricey with my other financial responsibilities. And, just in case you are wondering, this profession is not universally covered by health insurance, as is physical therapy.  Soothing music. This one is easy to do, but just puts you “in the mood” for a little while.

7) Find a buddy, I have a few work buddies, but in my off hours, family nor friends have had any of my same interests for several years.  This has always been a challenge with being single, without children, and not relating to everything family style.  I’m still hoping to find this situation.

8) Travel – Ahhh! Yes! I used to be the “Queen of Cruises” prior to buying a second property! I still love it! Relaxation, culturally, intellectually stimulating, pure escapism! Any vacation is fine with me!  One particularly discriminatory experience on a cruise, out of the nine cruises I’ve participated in, still is somewhat traumatic. But, my fondness for them overall doesn’t waver.  I’m not really fussy, a short road trip will do too! I just have to convince others I am a good travel buddy! I really am! In the meantime, I don’t let it deter me from solo travel. I have perfected it to a science.

9) Sleep, Sleep, Sleep! At times this too is a luxury! I have to share that a few years ago I often couldn’t sleep through the night. But, who knows, good diet and supplements may help now.  According to the well credentialed WebMD site, more sleep can help you in the following ways: better overall health, lower risk of injury, contribute to a better sex life, improved memory and concentration, stronger immunity and, believe it or not, even weight control! See this article for details: http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/features/9-reasons-to-sleep-more#1

Now, I just have to take my own advice! Ahhh ,Ladyjustice is always a work in progress!  How about you? As the RoadRunner would say, Meep, Meep!

References-

http://www.cigaraficionado.com/webfeatures/show/id/The-Ultimate-Cigar-Aficionado_6004

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/jul/25/homicide-detective-lapd-daily-life

http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/features/9-reasons-to-sleep-more#1


DonnaGore-2

To schedule Donna R. Gore for your next conference, seminar or event, please contact ImaginePublicity.Phone: 843-808-0859 or Email: contact@imaginepublicity.com

You can find me here, please follow or friend! Facebook,  Shattered Lives,  Twitter, LinkedIn

 

Shattered Lives Features CRIS Radio for People who are Blind or Print Challenged

Diane Weaver Dunne of CRIS radio discusses the audio offerings available to people who are blind or print challenged.

CRIS records articles featured in more than 70 newspapers and magazines, including the most extensive line-up in the nation of award-winning children’s magazines featuring human narration, all available online and on demand.

In addition to broadcasting 24 hours a day, seven days a week, other services include streaming CRIS programs directly to hospitals and other health care facilities through their in-house systems, or through Internet radios installed at assisted living facilities or nursing homes.

CRIS also provides custom recordings for schools and museums to better serve people with print disabilities.

For complete details on all of the CRIS offerings, please visit their website: https://crisradio.org