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Reign of Terror Over, John Regan Incarcerated For 15 Years
Reign of Terror Over, John Regan Incarcerated For 15 Years
(Editor's note - the following story is an account of October 26th, in Waterbury Superior Court, when John Regan was sentenced to 15 years in prison for kidnapping, stalking and unlawful restraint. The court system referred to the two women that Regan had raped, or assaulted, as Victim #1 and Victim #2. The Observer has followed the story of Victim #1 for five years. We have published four front page stories about her quest for justice, and the bizarre twist and turns that veered off into a legal showdown with Waterbury police, In the previous four stories we referred to her, and her husband, as Rachael and Bob. That practice will continue in the following story. The Observer has had no direct contact with the other woman assaulted by Regan, and we do not diminish the pain she has felt, but this story will concentrate on Rachael's attempt at closure.)
Rachael was ready. She had waited more than a decade to stand up in court and face the man who had raped her 13 years ago in her own bed. The time was near. Her mind spun as a prosecutor read out loud a condensed version of the attack. Rachael had rehearsed the statement several times that she was about to make to the court, but her stomach was flipping and her heart thumped hard inside her chest. Then, bizarrely, with just moments before standing up in court to face her attacker, a strobe light on the ceiling kicked on and a high pitched wail filled ears inside the courthouse.
A fire alarm was triggered inside the building. State marshals ordered everyone to evacuate the courthouse. Rachael stood up and shook her head in disbelief. As the courtroom began to file into the hallway - the entire courthouse in exodus - Rachael turned to a prosecutor and asked where her attacker was. He was being returned to lock up.
Outside, the marshals herded hundreds of people across Grand Street and directed them to the back of Library Park. Rachael was dressed in a dark business suit, flimsy protection from a strong autumn wind that roared across the landscape.
As she shivered in Library Park, protected by family and friends, she was surrounded by court personnel, young gangstas, hip-hop wannabees and their lawyers.
Ironically, the scene made perfect sense. It was symbolic of Rachael's 13-year quest for truth. Another strange twist that left her cold and standing outside a system that betrayed her at the most vulnerable moments in her life. In the years after the violent attack in 1993, Rachael had endured a mind-bending array of assaults on her integrity. The Waterbury PD had challenged her version of the rape and accused her of fabricating the attack to cover up an alleged affair, a totally untrue charge that she adamantly denied.
In her quest for justice Rachael tangled with corrupt police officers who threatened to arrest her and take her children away. She battled with indifferent city officials and weathered a barrage of insensitive and slanted reports published in the Republican-American newspaper in 2001.
Eventually the pain and hurt of the rape was dwarfed by her anger at a system that questioned her character, and threatened to destroy her with innuendo. Battling back, she sued the Waterbury Police Department and jammed a flashlight into a darkened corner of police misconduct. In 2001 a jury awarded her $190,000 in damages. The lawsuit ultimately led to policy changes inside the Waterbury Police Department and how its officers respond to sexual assault cases.
Rachael had been raped in her Overlook home, on September 11, 1993 by a masked intruder. During the attack the rapist jammed the barrel of a revolver into her mouth, and then pressed it against her temple. With her two children sleeping down the hallway, Rachael had prayed out loud and asked God for absolution.
The rapist flipped her over, stuck the gun into her back, and told her "If you call the pigs I'll come back and kill you."
With a pillowcase over her head, and her hands bound behind her back by nylons, Rachael lay on her bed and listened to the rapist walk down the stairs and out the front door.
Now, thirteen years later, on October 26th, 2006, the rapist stood before a judge in Waterbury Superior Court, and Rachael sat 15 feet away. The rapist had remained anonymous for 11 years until excellent work by Waterbury Police Chief, Neil O'Leary, had cracked the case in October 2004.
With the help of a perfect DNA match the rapist's mask had been torn off and his identity had left Rachael, and Waterbury, stunned. One of her husband's good friends, John Regan, was the monster who broke into her home and sexually assaulted her. It was the first night her husband Bob had been away from home in 12 years, and Regan knew that.
Regan was the son of a prominent Waterbury family - a local elementary school was named after his grandfather - and he was married to a second grade teacher. Regan was also the father of three children and a manager of a local roofing company.
The night before the encounter with John Regan in Superior Court, Rachael spoke with the Observer about her long struggle for truth.
"Right now this is all so surreal," she said. "It's been such a long road. 13 years. I'm really happy the day has finally come. It's what we've been waiting for all these years."
But the thought of seeing Regan again was unnerving.
"It will be difficult to see him," she said. "But he doesn't have the power now, he will be in shackles. He is a convicted felon and now he is the one bound, not me. That's empowering."
The following day John Regan shuffled into the court wearing a brown sweatshirt and blue jeans and pleaded guilty to kidnapping, stalking and unlawful restraint.
But the indignities that have plagued Rachael's 13-year battle were not over yet. The fire alarm exploded during the proceedings, and there were several more surprises that awaited her in the next hour.
Simply entering the courthouse was a culture shock for Rachael and her supporters. Two long lines snaked out of the courthouse doors and ran east along Grand Street, past a row of metallic and plastic newspaper boxes. The make-up of the gathering was not Rachael's usual social scene. She is a successful businesswoman, white, and now lives in an affluent community on the outskirts of Waterbury.
The crowd outside the courthouse was composed mainly of young urban males dressed in oversized sweatpants, jeans hanging preposterously low, sneakers, oversized work boots, baseball caps and stockings on their heads. Some were white, some black and some Hispanic - but the defining theme was ghetto.
It was easy to differentiate the lawyers from the clients because the attorneys wore suits and ties, had well coifed hair and shiny black shoes.
Rachael, Bob, and their supporters, looked like lawyers. Inside the court hundreds of people gathered in the main lobby to scan the court docket and wait for the courtrooms to open. One highly agitated young black man paced back and forth and yelled into his cell phone "I don't care if I get arrested in the courtroom," he screamed. "I don't care."
He wore a black leather jacket and a New York Yankees baseball cap pulled down low. Moments later a young Hispanic woman collapsed in the lobby. Three judicial marshals raced to the scene and ordered the gawkers to stand back and give the woman space. The woman was pregnant and had her pants unbuttoned to accommodate her swollen abdomen. She lay on the cold slate floor for ten minutes and covered her face in anguish.
A few feet away from the woman, two scruffy looking white guys, in their mid-thirties, had a quick reunion. "Hey what are you doing here?" said scruffy #1. "Got caught drunk driving," said scruffy #2. "Me too," said scruffy #1.
A quick comparison of incidents and they discovered they had both been arrested two weeks before, on the same Thursday night. With tattoos covering his arms, scruffy #1, a roofer, told the story about a recent fight he had. One of his drinking buddies had ripped him off of $50 at Mr. Happy's, and they had duked it out.
The vulgarities from their obscenity laced conversation wafted through the crowd.
A quick look at the court docket stated that John Regan would be appearing in courtroom 1-A, which a marshal said was not going to open for another 25 minutes. Standing in the lobby one could not help but notice the massive artwork in the entrance of courtroom 1-A. The painting was of farm landscape. The right side of the painting, by the entrance to the courtroom, was green and lush and full of life. The farmland was furrowed and crops peeked out of the soil.
The left side of the painting, by the courtroom exit, was of the same farmland entombed in snow and ice. The painting had obvious judicial symbolism, but it was hard to figure out what the message was. You enter the court free and full of promise, and exit the proceedings cold and entombed in ice?
It would be the opposite for Rachael today. She has been trapped between two worlds for 13 years. Today is the day she can step out of the winter landscape. Today is the day she hopes she can put John Regan in her rearview mirror.
As it turned out, the court docket was wrong, and the Regan case had been moved upstairs to courtroom 2-B, where Judge Joan Alexander presided.
Alexander is a young judge and very low key. Her speech is monotone with almost no hint of emotion or inflection. Later, when given the opportunity to admonish Regan, or any number of criminals who stood before her that day, she almost seemed depressed, like the Eeyore character from Winnie the Pooh cartoons.
Many in the courtroom strained to hear her during the proceedings. In a highly charged emotional case, Judge Alexander seemed misplaced. Or maybe that was the point, having a low key judge in the proceeding might diffuse any potential fireworks.
But before any fireworks could start, John Regan needed to be in court. Rachael had been told the case would proceed shortly after 10 AM, but when Judge Alexander attempted to begin the proceedings she was told that John Regan hadn't yet arrived at court.
How did that make sense? The man was bound and shackled and in the custody of the state of Connecticut. What was so hard about getting him to the court on time?
In yet one more indignity, Rachael had to wait for more than an hour before state officials managed to get Regan to the courthouse.
Rachael's cousin Joe was in the courtroom and said, "the system has failed her over and over again." He wondered if something would go wrong today.
And it did, starting with Regan's late arrival.
As John Regan made his way towards court, Rachael and Bob were told it would be sometime before the defendant arrived and they were invited to sit in a small room inside the state's attorney's office. A other woman that Regan assaulted and stalked, and her fiancée, were also in the room.
"I was nervous facing Regan again," Rachael said. "My stomach was in butterflies and we were sitting in that room waiting, and waiting, and waiting. They didn't know exactly where he was. But they knew he was in a van somewhere on his way to court. So we just sat tight and waited in the room."
While Rachael and her supporters waited for Regan to arrive, Judge Alexander listened to several other cases that involved drug dealing, a shooting, and an attempted murder. At one point state's attorney John Connelly entered the room and sat at a table in the front of the courtroom. When he addressed the court his voice was sharp and clear and dominated the room. One of Regan's attorneys, Marty Minnella, a barrel chested man, wandered in and out of the room waiting for his client's arrival.
At 11:15, with Regan still not at the courthouse, Judge Alexander called a recess. There were 25 people sitting in the spectator's seats, 16 were Rachael's family and friends, and four were journalists.
At 11:27 John Connelly announced the state was ready to proceed with the Regan matter. Regan's lawyers, Marty Minnella of Waterbury, and Hubie Santos of Hartford, stood at rapt attention as Regan entered the courtroom guarded by three marshals. Regan wore a brown sweatshirt and jeans and his hands cuffed in front of him. Santos placed his arm around Regan's back to comfort his client.
Regan pled guilty to three charges, including kidnapping, stalking and unlawful restraint - all under the Alford Doctrine - which allowed him to plead guilty while not agreeing to the charges. Regan understood the state had enough evidence to convict him on all three charges, and that if he took the case to trial, and lost, he would receive a harsher sentence (36 years), than the deal his lawyers worked out with John Connelly (15 years).
Before Rachael could stand and address the court, the prosecutors had to read out loud, for the record, accounts of Regan's crimes. Rachael sat with her head bowed as Robin Lipsky read the details of her case.
After finishing the account of Regan's crime against Rachael. Lipsky began reading the account of Regan's crime against a former co-worker he assaulted and stalked. In the middle of that account the fire alarm blared and the courthouse was cleared for 20 minutes.
In the line to go back into the court two boisterous young women behind Rachael got into a verbal confrontation about cutting in line, and a marshal threatened to arrest the women if they didn't quiet down.
Upon returning to her seat, Rachael turned to her family and friends and said "unbelievable", shook her head, and smiled. Rachael, who was referred to as victim #1 in court proceedings, sat next to victim #2, the former co-worker of Regan's.
As Rachael sat waiting for the proceedings to resume, her sister, seated in the row behind her, plucked lint off the back of Rachael's business suit. On the right hand side of the courtroom was a giant set of eight windows, two of which had enormous Xs filling the windowpane. Symbolism abounds in Waterbury Superior Court and one can only wonder what the Xs stand for - three strikes and you're out?
The wind continued to churn outside and six small birch trees danced and swirled in the breeze just beyond the enormous Xs. Regan's lawyers shared a laugh at the defense table, and then Regan returned and the proceedings started again.
The prosecution picked up from where it had been before the fire alarm, and Robin Lipsky continued to describe Regan's crimes against victim #2. Judge Alexander leaned forward, listened with sharp attention, and rested her chin in her hand, her brow furrowed. Regan was alert with his head slightly bowed as he listened to the prosecution describe his assault of victim #2, and his subsequent stalking of her.
Police in Saratoga Springs, NY, had found photographs of both victim #2, and Rachael, in Regan's van when he had been arrested for attempting to kidnap a high school student last Halloween.
After the accounts of Regan's crimes were read into the record, Judge Alexander addressed Regan and asked if he disagreed with some, or all, of the facts. Regan said, "That's true."
Judge Alexander explained that by pleading guilty and accepting the agreement under the Alford Doctrine he would be sentenced to 15 years in Connecticut rather than risk a more serious sentence if convicted after a trial.
Regan, a short stocky man with a bull neck, was a former wrestler at Holy Cross High School in Waterbury. His short cropped hair was a mix of blond, gray and brown, and swirled around a noticeable bald spot on the crown of his head.
Judge Alexander explained to Regan that a sample of his blood would be taken and sent to the state police lab and entered into DNA data banks. Some people, including Dr. Henry Lee, have stated in public that there is reason to suspect John Regan is guilty of many more crimes than he has been charged with.
Dr. Lee spoke at a DNA press conference in November 2005 and said "John Regan fits the profile of a serial rapist. We think there are many other kidnapping cases he was involved in."
Once his DNA is entered into local, regional and national data banks there is a possibility Regan will be charged with additional crimes. Last year after his bold attempt to abduct the cross-country star in Saratoga Springs, a regional task force was formed to investigate Regan's movements during the past 30 years, and police attempted to link him to unsolved rapes and murders.
The task force was comprised of Connecticut State Police, New York State Police, Massachusetts State Police, the FBI and members of the Waterbury Police Department. When asked about the task force several months ago, Waterbury Chief Neil O'Leary told the Observer that connecting Regan to anything had proved difficult.
" Many of the officers involved in cases going back ten or twenty years are either retired or dead," O'Leary said. "Files are sitting in boxes and it's up to the initative of individual cops throughout the northeast to bring information forward."
And with Regan behind bars, the motivation for digging through the cold case files is not strong.
Regan received a 12-year sentence in New York state for his attempted kidnapping in Saratoga Springs. His 15 year sentence in Connecticut has come under sharp criticism because it is to run concurrently, which means, when it's all said and done, Regan would only serve an additional three years in prison for sexually assaulting Rachael, and assaulting and stalking his former co-worker.
The Saratogian newspaper of New York harpooned Connecticut prosecutors for Regan's "meager sentence", and said the Connecticut public should be "outraged - and worried".
In an editorial published two days after Regan's sentencing they wrote, "The longer Regan is behind bars the better. The 15-year sentence should have been on top of the 12 years, not served at the same time. Connecticut prosecutors say they got the best deal they could. We say the deal is a disgrace."
Despite being mistreated for 13 years by the legal system, Rachael said she understood the dilemma Connecticut prosecutors faced. If the charges had proceeded to trial there was a chance that Regan could beat the charges.
The statute of limitations had run out on a rape charge, and the kidnapping charge was tenuous because Rachael had never left her own bed during the attack. There were also questions about how the Waterbury Police Department obtained Regan's DNA sample two years ago, and without that evidence, Rachael's case was a he said, she said.
By accepting the deal Regan avoided a possible 36-year sentence, and Connecticut added three more years onto his New York sentence. In the end, state's attorney John Connelly told the media that it was "the best sentence under the circumstances."
After Regan's release from prison he will have three days to register with the chief of police or a state trooper in the town he plans to live in. For ten years he will have to register with local police, and if he moves, he will have three days to register in his new community or he will face an additional five years in prison.
Regan's lawyer, Hubie Santos, objected to the 10-year registration period and stated it was a violation of Regan's constitutional rights. Santos went back and forth on a few legal volleys with Judge Alexander, who ruled against Santos. By placing his objection on the record, Santos set up a possible appeal in the future.
As the volley ended between Santos and the judge, John Connelly's cell phone erupted into a loud musical jingle. As he fumbled through his pockets to switch off his cell phone ringer, the court proceedings stopped for 20 seconds.
Then Regan's other attorney, Marty Minnella, said, "hopefully healing will take place. Hopefully this will put an end to a lot of pain for all the families involved."
Hubie Santos addressed the court and said there were 20 letters sent to the New York court, all expressing support for John Regan. "These charges are puzzling to everybody," he said. "Mr. Regan's family loves him, supports him, and believes in him 100 percent."
Santos said Regan's family and friends were not in court that day because Regan requested they stay away, due to intense media interest.
Judge Alexander gave Regan an opportunity to address the court and he declined. Then it was time for the victims to address the court. First up was Regan's former co-worker. She declined to speak in person, but had a victim's advocate stand up in court and read a letter she had written. As the victim's advocate made her way forward, a car alarm started blaring outside the window and nearly drowned out the proceedings. The alarm blared for nearly a minute.
In the letter, victim #2 told the court that she had experienced posttraumatic stress after the assault, heart palpitations, and anxiety attacks. She wrote that John Regan had lived a double life, and she feared if he was given the opportunity that he would attack again. She said Regan had come after her twice and she feared for her life. She asked for a lifetime restraining order to keep Regan away from her.
As the letter was read in court Regan looked straight ahead, emotionless, and 15 feet behind him his young victim sat shaking and crying.
Rachael was supposed to go next, but her husband, Bob, decided he wanted to address the court. For thirteen years Bob has been tormented by Regan's brutal assault on his wife. A former UConn football player, Bob has fought demons to control his rage. Every instinct in his body screamed revenge. On the first night he'd left his family alone in 12 years of marriage, one of his best friends broke into his home and raped his wife.
It was a violation so extreme, so hideous, that it shattered that place in Bob and Rachael where trust and well being reside. Bob's family, and the Waterbury police, counseled him to resist his urge to settle the score with John Regan. And against almost every fiber of his body - he did. But it wasn't the warnings from friends and family that stopped Bob from taking justice into his own hands. It was his spirituality.
"My husband had a choice to make," Rachael said. " He could settle the score, but he would relinquish his soul. In the end it was his spiritual strength that kept him from acting out."
But now, finally, Bob had the opportunity to express himself, and within seconds he infused the proceedings with fire and passion. With his voice filling the courtroom, Bob told Judge Alexander that the day's proceedings "showed what a punk" John Regan was.
"He has no remorse, there has been no apology," Bob said. "His attorney said they have 20 letters saying what a nice guy he is, well I could get 200 saying what a creep he is."
"I have known this man since I was 5 years old," Bob said. "What he did is reprehensible. He has disgraced his family and friends."
Bob urged Judge Alexander to make sure "this creep is kept in prison for as long as possible, because he will hurt again."
Then Rachael stepped forward. Where Bob was raw passion, Rachael was dignified and composed as she made her statement.
"A am the 1993 survivor," she said. "And I believe John Regan's ultimate fate will be determined by God. He is calculated and dangerous, and I pray he never be given another opportunity to hurt another person on this earth as long as he is alive."
As Rachael returned to her seat, Hubie Santos put his arm around John Regan for comfort, but Regan stared straight ahead, emotionless.
Judge Alexander then explained the lifetime criminal restraining orders that both woman have against Regan. He can have no contact with them. He can't be within 100 yards of either woman, or their minor children. He can make no contact in person, by letter or phone, and no one can make contact with the women on his behalf. If Regan violates the court order he can receive a five-year prison sentence.
"This has been a long drawn out process for the victims and there will be serious restrictions upon Mr. Regan upon his release," Judge Alexander said.
She then sentenced John Regan to 15 years in prison for the 1993 kidnapping, 5 years for the unlawful restraint of his former co-worker, and two years for first degree stalking of his former co-worker.
The proceeding was over and John Regan turned to his right and shook Hubie Santos' hand, thanked him, and then turned to his left and shook Marty Minnella's hand, and thanked him. It was the most emotion he had shown all day.
Sitting with Rachael three days later, it was obvious she is still reeling from the courtroom proceedings.
"Everything seemed so rote," she said. " Like it was another day in the office. I'm so glad my husband decided to speak. He cast a light on how evil John Regan is."
Rachael was appalled at Attorney Hubie Santos' comment that the case was puzzling. "What's so puzzling?" Rachael said. "Can we stop mincing words. John Regan is a serial rapist. How many times does he have to attack before we lock him up for good?"
After struggling against a system that repeatedly betrayed her, Rachael found little solace in the courtroom.
"If I ever thought the 10 or 15 minutes in court was the final justice in this case I would be devastated," Rachael said. " Judge Alexander is not the final judge of John Regan. He still has to face God."