An employee in an affluent Connecticut town who took and shared photos of a murder victim found stuffed in a suitcase will be demoted but will not face any criminal charges.
James Clifford, a foreman with the Greenwich Department of Public Works, will also be suspended without pay for five days, lose five vacation days and must attend sensitivity training, officials said Wednesday, according to the Greenwich Time newspaper. An investigation into Clifford was opened after he took and shared photos of the body of Valerie Reyes, 24, a resident of New Rochelle, N.Y.
Clifford’s attorney, Lindy Urso, called his client's actions an “error in judgment,” adding he had no bad intentions. Urso expressed surprise that the town announced Clifford’s punishment.
“Although Mr. Clifford likely did not violate any town policies, he agreed in good faith to certain sanctions, which will remain confidential, to avoid a protracted legal battle and to get back to work,” Urso said. “I am surprised at the town’s interpretation of those sanctions and I am frankly stunned that they think it is appropriate, or even legal, to publicly disclose personal information when it knows full well that Mr. Clifford has already been identified in the press. It’s wrong on every level.”
Town officials said the 26-year employee admitted taking the photos, but that it did not involve criminality.
Reyes was found dead inside a suitcase Feb. 5 by another town employee. Clifford responded to the scene, the paper reported. Her hands were tied with tape and twine and she suffered a severe head injury.
Her former boyfriend, Javier Da Silva – an undocumented immigrant with citizenship in Venezuela and Portugal – told federal authorities that Reyes fell and hit her head on the floor.
He faces life in prison or the death penalty if convicted. He has not yet entered a plea to a charge. No court date has been set for him.