Sen. Kelly: “A safer Connecticut must be our focus.”

August 21, 2023

Criminal court backlog declines

Hits 5-year low amid flood of shootings in Connecticut cities


Connecticut’s criminal court backlog is at a five-year low, but some defendants are still being charged with committing more violent offenses while out on bond awaiting trial for earlier charges.
Earlier this month, Chan Williams-Bey, 27, allegedly walked up to two men outside a Hartford gas station and opened fire, leaving one man wounded and a young father dead. At the time of the shooting, he was on a court-ordered 24/7 lockdown and had been released from custody on more than $800,000 in bonds.

He had at least 11 pending criminal court cases dating back to 2019 when he allegedly shot the men on Aug. 6, records show.

A few days later, 47-year-old Lyle Solsbury was arrested for allegedly being involved in a chase that led to a fatal officer-involved shooting in West Hartford. He had been released on more than $2.1 million in bonds at the time of the most recent arrest, according to court records. In total, he has 24 pending criminal and motor vehicle cases in the Bridgeport, Danielson, New London, Rockville, Waterbury, Norwich, Danbury, New Britain, Hartford and Torrington court districts, court records show. Connecticut has a total of 13 judicial districts for the Superior Court.

The Williams-Bey case drew immediate calls for reform and pushback from multiple lawmakers on both sides of the aisles, including because he was out on bail in a case involving a previous shooting.
Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin has said he was angry that Williams-Bey was released from custody and free to allegedly carry out another shooting.

“I’m angry that this person was not in jail,” the mayor has said. “I’m angry that this person was out in the community and was able to continue to commit acts of violence that take people’s lives and traumatize a community. This person should have been locked up.”

“Why was the alleged shooter – who has multiple pending cases with violent offenses – out on the street? This is an avoidable tragedy, and this situation cries out for systemic reforms,” Senate Republican Leader Kevin Kelly said following the death of Jordan Phipps. “Senate Republicans stand ready to work with mayors, law enforcement, the Judicial Branch, victims and their families, and all community stakeholders to pass policies which make our streets safer. A safer Connecticut must be our focus.”

According to a representative of the state judicial branch, there are just over 50,000 criminal and motor vehicle cases pending in the state right now, meaning defendants charged with criminal acts in 50,005 separate cases are awaiting their next court date or the start of a trial, many of them free on bond.

While that number may seem like a large volume, 50,005 cases is the smallest backlog the Connecticut judicial system has had in years, according to the state judicial branch. Not only is it the lowest since the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered courthouses and put trials on hold starting in 2020, it is lower than before the pandemic.

During 2020, when COVID-19 closures began, the backlog was much larger than it is today, with 72,570 cases waiting to be heard as of August of that year. In August 2021, it was higher with 81,291 pending cases, 31,286 more than are pending now, according to data the Courant received from the state judicial branch.

Before the pandemic, there were 54,570 pending cases in August of 2019, 56,935 the year before and 54,902 in 2017, according to the judicial records.

While the current 50,005 cases are pending, most defendants are given an opportunity to post bond to avoid being in custody as they await trial. According to a spokesperson for the judicial branch, there is “no ceiling” for the amount of bond a person can pay while awaiting trial in an unlimited number of cases.

“The judge considers all information in setting bond, including but not limited to, pending cases, previous convictions, ties to the community and the nature and circumstances of the case,” the judicial spokesperson told the Courant.

Other factors included in the decision to offer a bond and how high to set it include a defendant’s family ties, employment record and financial resources, according to the spokesperson.

Bail, or the amount of money that must be posted to be released from custody, is set by police, pretrial services staff or judges and is intended to make sure a person goes to or returns to court after they have been arrested, according to the state officials. Bail is first set by arresting law enforcement and then considered by pretrial services staff who conduct an interview to get personal information from the person facing charges. The pretrial services staff can increase or decrease the amount of bond set by police.

A person who has been arrested can either post the total cash value of their bond, post 10% of their bond in cash or contact a licensed bonds person who may post their bond for a non-refundable fee. As of January 1, 2020, a 10% cash option is automatically available for any bail set for $20,000 or less, according to the judicial branch. A judge has the authority to change whether this option applies to a specific case.

Additional conditions of bond are also often set, including supervision of the person on bond by another person or organization, travel restrictions, GPS monitoring, no substance use or limited or restricted contact with certain people.

When Williams-Bey was recently charged with murder in the fatal shooting of Jordan Phipps, he was under conditions of bond that required him to be in his house 24/7. He was only able to leave his home for verified work or legal and medical appointments.

Williams-Bey allegedly opened fire on Phipps and another outside a gas station in the city. His probation officer told police Amazon employed him, the affidavit for his arrest said, and that he had been working the third shift at one of their facilities. Detectives contacted the Amazon facility and learned that Williams-Bey was let go in November 2022, according to the affidavit.

In another high-profile case, Christopher Francisquini of Naugatuck was arrested and charged with allegedly killing his 11-month-old daughter, Camilla Francisquini, in November 2022.
Francisquini was arrested after a days-long search. At the time of his daughter’s death, he had at least five criminal cases pending. He was facing charges of assault on a public safety officer assault — for which his bond was set at $200,000 — breach of peace and failure to appear in court, all stemming from an arrest in Naugatuck in November 2021, records show.

He was also facing charges of burglary, two counts of breach of peace and five counts of attempting to commit larceny in the Derby court district in March 2022, for which his bond was set at $50, according to court records.

In the Milford judicial district, he also had a pending case charging him with three counts of assault on a public safety officer, attempt to escape from custody, two counts of second-degree assault, failure to appear in court, failure to comply with fingerprinting and third-degree robbery. His bond was set at $750,000 in that case, court records show.

In addition to other charges pending in Milford, he also had another case in the Waterbury judicial system with a $100,000 bond for breach of peace and criminal mischief, according to court records.

Francisquini is now being held in custody in lieu of a $5 million bond on charges of murder with special circumstances and risk of injury to a child, court records show. He is being held at Garner Correctional Institution in Newtown as he awaits trial, according to the Connecticut Department of Correction.

Winston Tate, who reportedly assaulted a Middletown police detective with a claw hammer early this month, had four pending cases in criminal and motor vehicle court when he was arrested again on Aug. 12, according to court records.

Now charged with criminal attempt to commit first-degree assault, second-degree assault, assault on a public safety officer and interfering with police, Tate is being held in lieu of a $850,000 bond, an amount that was increased by a judge when he was arraigned in Middlesex Superior Court.

Police body camera footage showed Tate charging at a Middletown Police Department detective Karli Travis with a claw hammer on the morning of Aug. 12. Travis discharged her weapon in the incident. Tate was hospitalized and treated for gunshot wounds. He was released from the hospital and is now being held at Garner Correctional Institution, according to the DOC.

Tate has an extensive criminal history with multiple convictions for carrying a dangerous weapon, harassment and robbery and has been convicted of previous assaults on officers, including a conviction for assaulting a public safety officer in 2017 and again in 2020 and another for interfering with an officer in 2019, court records show.

At the time that he attacked the officer, Tate had pending cases in the Middlesex and Hartford court districts.

In Hartford specifically, there are currently 7,928 pending criminal and motor vehicle cases as of August, down from 11,017 in the summer of 2022, according to state officials.

When COVID-19 court closures started, there were 11,060 cases pending in Hartford in August 2020. Prior to the pandemic, there were 8,867 in 2019, officials said.

The highest recent rate in Hartford was 14,810 pending cases in the summer of 2021, according to officials. In two years, the number of pending cases in Hartford has lessened by nearly half.