Courthouses across Connecticut evacuated after bomb threats; no explosives found yet |

Courthouses across Connecticut evacuated after bomb threats; no explosives found yet

HARTFORD, Conn. – Bomb threats prompted police to evacuate the state’s 45 courthouses Friday, abruptly interrupting trials while sending judges, lawyers and people with routine court business into the streets.A caller said bombs would go off at 2 p.m. An hour later, the buildings were still being searched with dogs and nothing had been found.Public Safety Commissioner Leonard Boyle said there were five threats that were not directed against specific courthouses.One threat was called in at about 10 a.m. on a constituent phone line answered by a staff member in Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s office, gubernatorial spokesman David Dearborn said.Defense attorney William Gerace was in the Danielson Superior Court for pretrial conferences when it was evacuated before noon.”At first they told us we’d be back in momentarily,” he said. “Then we heard a rumor there was a bomb threat. I started looking at my clients suspiciously, but they all swore they didn’t do it. We all stood around outside in the cold for an hour and a half.”State officials said they respond to about 400 such calls a year but have never shut down all Connecticut courthouses.”The calls were not specific as to particular courthouses, which of course compounded the problem,” Boyle said. “The calls simply stated that bombs had been placed in courthouses, or one call I believe said ‘judicial buildings’ in the state of Connecticut.”Connecticut’s judicial branch has 83 facilities; 45 include courtrooms.Chief State’s Attorney Christopher Morano said officials tried to balance the need to finish court business with the threat to public safety in deciding when to close the buildings.”There are certain arraignments that need to be held within certain time periods and that is the major concern,” he said. “There are other speedy trial issues that might come up, but primarily we want to make sure that the conveyor belt of justice keeps moving and that timelines are met that are set forth in state law and our constitution.”Morano said it’s not uncommon to have a courthouse close down and that there are precedents for dealing with delayed cases.Officials evacuating the Hartford Superior Court building “were very nonchalant, very smooth,” said Madeline Hunt, who was attending her son’s court appearance. “‘OK,’ they said. ‘Everyone’s got to leave.’ There was no panic, no nothing.”State police were working to trace the calls, Boyle said. It was unclear whether all five calls were made by one person.In addition to criminal charges, the state will seek restitution for the money spent responding to the bomb threats from anyone arrested, Morano said.U.S. Marshal John Bardelli said bomb squads were sweeping federal courts in Bridgeport, New Haven and Hartford but that those courthouses remained open.—Associated Press writer Pat Eaton-Robb in Hartford, Conn., and Matt Apuzzo in New Haven, Conn., contributed to this report.Vail, Colorado

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