Attorney: Troconis prosecution used to justify ‘millions’ spent on Jennifer Dulos search

Attorneys for Michelle Troconis and prosecutors are expected in Superior Court in Stamford, Conn., on Friday, Dec. 3, 2021, to discuss pending motions in her case. Troconis will not appear.

Attorneys for Michelle Troconis and prosecutors are expected in Superior Court in Stamford, Conn., on Friday, Dec. 3, 2021, to discuss pending motions in her case. Troconis will not appear.

H John Voorhees III / Hearst Connecticut Media

STAMFORD — Michelle Troconis’ attorney took aim at prosecutors on Friday, saying their pursuit of charges against his client are motivated by a desire to justify the immense police resources spent investigating the death and disappearance of Jennifer Dulos.

It’s an argument, attorney Jon Schoenhorn said, that could be a factor in Troconis’ defense.

Schoenhorn made those comments to reporters Friday following a hearing in which he argued that police embellished and misstated the facts of their investigation to obtain warrants, charging Troconis with hindering prosecution, tampering with evidence and conspiracy to commit tampering.

“Their whole point, it’s pretty clear to me, was to have her be a cooperating witness, which she was,” Schoenhorn said, referring to Troconis’ hours of interviews with police following the May 2019 disappearance.

The 47-year-old Troconis is accused of helping to dispose of evidence and trying to concoct an alibi for her former boyfriend, Fotis Dulos, in connection with the death of his estranged wife. Fotis Dulos died by suicide in January 2020 as he faced murder, kidnapping and other charges in the case.

Police spent nearly $1 million in overtime alone during the first two years of their investigation into the disappearance, according to an analysis by Heart Connecticut Media. The search spanned multiple sites from New Canaan to Fotis Dulos’ former home in Farmington and a recycling center in Hartford, though the mother of five’s body has never been found.

“Of course, when Fotis Dulos takes his life, suddenly, they’ve spent millions of dollars, they were not going to be pursuing the charges against her, now they’ve got to be justifying millions of dollars,” spent on the investigation, Schoenhorn continued. “Many people, including judges, have said, ‘Gee, they don’t spend that kind of money when poor women in Hartford, from the inner city, women of color go missing.”

Schoenhorn said he was not yet certain whether that argument will become a centerpiece of his defense if the case goes to trial, calling it an “observation.”

Troconis did not appear in court on Friday. She has pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to commit murder as well as each of the tampering and hindering prosecution charges.

Assistant State’s Attorney Daniel Cummings declined to comment on Friday to Schoenhorn’s description of the state’s prosecution. In court, however, he described Troconis as more than an unwitting participant in Fotis Dulos’ alleged attempts to cover up the crime.

“She is at Dulos’ hip at every moment he is trying to dispose of all this incriminating evidence,” Cummings said.

Jennifer Dulos was reported missing to police in New Canaan on May 24, 2019. Police said she is presumed dead based on blood evidence found in the garage of her home, according to arrest warrants in the case.

Police accused her estranged husband of “lying in wait” at her home, where police later found evidence of a violent attack, including blood stains in the garage and kitchen sink, according to arrest affidavits.

Fotis Dulos was seen on security footage on the evening she was reported missing dumping garbage bags with items allegedly containing Jennifer Dulos’ blood on them in bins around Hartford, the affidavits said. Police said Troconis was in the vehicle with him, according to the warrants.

In addition, Kent Mawhinney, a longtime friend and former attorney for Fotis Dulos, has pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to commit murder for allegedly trying to create an alibi for Fotis Dulos

Mawhinney, who is also free on bond, will likely be called to testify against Troconis, prosecutors have said.

Friday’s court appearance came on the heels of a filing Thursday by prosecutors in response to a January motion by Troconis’ attorney. Judge Gary White, who presided over the hearing in place of Judge John F. Blawie, did not issue a ruling Friday as to whether he would order a hearing at which police will testify about several affidavits that led to Troconis’ arrest.

Schoenhorn argued in the January filing that Connecticut State Police Detective John Kimball “recklessly disregarded the truth” and left out facts in an affidavit used to secure charges against his client for allegedly helping dispose of evidence in the case.

In response, prosecutors said in legal filings and in open court on Friday that any attempt to hold a full hearing over the evidence presented in the arrest affidavits would be a “meaningless” waste of court resources.

“None of the claimed misstatements or omissions are actually that,” Cummings said.

Prosecutors conceded that the affidavits contained one factual error — claiming that Fotis Dulos and Troconis were seen stopping at more than 30 locations in Hartford where the bags were dumped. Cummings said they made three stops, calling it a minor mistake made during the “urgency” of the police search for Jennifer Dulos.

White appeared sympathetic to prosecutors’ argument that the error was not enough to mislead Blawie in his decision to grant the arrest warrants.

“Does it really make a difference whether it was 30, or three or one?” White asked.

During Friday’s court appearance, White also denied Schoenhorn’s request to amend the conditions of Troconis’ bail and refused to have her ankle monitor removed.

“I don’t see where she has been harmed in any way, shape or form,” White said.

Schoenhorn told the court his client travels between Florida, Connecticut and Colorado, and that the ankle monitor had become burdensome, requiring a new charge every few hours.

Speaking to reporters after Friday’s hearing, Schoenhorn said he is prepared to make further arguments relating to the conditions of Troconis’ release, which he said amounted to an unconstitutional form of punishment. Troconis has repeatedly been denied modifications to her bail conditions.

“At the appropriate time, I will file motions regarding that,” Schoenhorn said. “But I have to keep asking, because if I don’t ask, it won't get ruled on.”