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High school students who were holding campaign signs at the polls on Election Day are dismayed by some comments they allege were said directly to them by newly-elected State Representative Al Adinolfi.
The students from Cheshire and Wallingford high schools were holding up signs in support of Elizabeth Esty, who was seeking reelection in the 103rd House District. Adinolfi defeated Esty in a close race, but there is some Election Day fallout as teenage students are still stinging from what they claim Adinolfi said to them.
Mansoor Alam, 17, was outside of Cheshire High School holding a sign in support of Esty. According to the CHS senior, Adinolfi got out of his vehicle and approached the crowd outside of the polls. Seeing his Esty sign, Adinolfi reportedly came up to Alam and said, "You must be a Hayes and Komisarjevsky sympathizer."
"I didn't want to engage him in an argument. I didn't want to cause a scene," Alam said. "I have had a lot of bad things said to me in my life, but this is by far the worst. There is no way I misheard him or misunderstood him."
The death penalty was a focal point of the campaign, with Adinolfi in support of the punishment, while Esty said she would vote to repeal it. Adinolfi's comments were in regards to Steven Hayes and Joshua Komisarjevsky, who are charged with the brutal home invasion and murders of the three Petit women. Hayes was found guilty on 16 of 17 counts last month and was sentenced to death while Komisarjevsky is expected to go on trial sometime next year.
Esty had said that both men would not be spared from the death penalty, if it were repealed, during her campaign. Alam said that he was fine with Adinolfi making the death penalty "his issue" but he "should stop exploiting it."
"He turned Cheshire into a battleground when, in reality, we need to come together as neighbors," Alam said. "Even if (Esty) won, I'd still be talking about this. He needs to look within himself and change his actions. He needs to realize what he says does have consequences."
Joe Noonan, 16, was standing near Alam and overheard Adinolfi's alleged comments. Noonan, also a member of the Young Democrats at CHS, said Adinolfi walked right over to them and said they were sympathizing with the two men charged with crimes.
"I knew exactly what he was talking about. I've been following the case. He knew exactly what he was saying and it was a ridiculous statement to make," Noonan said. "We are high schoolers; the same age as the Petit girls. I have no idea why he would say such a thing."
In Wallingford, 17-year-old Sheehan High School senior Alicia Gansley had a similar experience with Adinolfi. She was holding up a homemade sign she made the night before that read "We love Elizabeth." Recognizing Adinolfi as he approached her, she smiled, but before she could say “hi,” he barged in with comments of his own, she claims. According to Gansley, Adinolfi "looked me up and down" and said, "You must love Hayes and Komisarjevsky, too."
"It felt like a punch in the stomach to be accused of loving people that would perpetrate those crimes," Gansley said. "The Petit murders were violence against women, which is a very important issue to me. I felt like he was trying to remove my voice, remove the opposition."
Gansley said there were no discussions on the death penalty or any other conversations occurring nearby that would have elicited such a comment from Adinolfi. To her, it was a response to her sign and her support of Esty that drew the ire of Adinolfi.
"I don't think he appreciated that I was supporting his opponent," she said. "I didn't say 'Hi' because he didn't give me a chance. I am not happy about this at all and I didn't want to remain silent on this."
Adinolfi refused to answer questions about the matter, but did provide a written statement in an e-mail. In the statement, Adinolfi commends the Young Democrats for assisting in Esty's campaign at the polls and stands by the fact that he is a staunch supporter of the death penalty.
"I have never asserted, nor do I believe, that people who oppose the death penalty must naturally be supporters of murderers," Adinolfi said in a statement. "I made it very clear that I support a workable death penalty in this state."
Alam is also the founder of the student-led group ENOUGH, which aims to spread world peace and put a stop to violence. He posted an open letter to Adinolfi on the group's Facebook page, which was accompanied by a photo of himself and Dr. William Petit, the lone survivor of the home invasion more than three years ago. Alam has the photo because his group won the Petit Women Be The Change Award from the Petit Family Foundation earlier this year. Petit himself presented Alam with the award and he said this accolade meant the most to him.
"It was like (Petit) believed in us, he believed what were doing and this was the change his daughters had hoped to see," Alam said. "This happened at home, a mile from my house. There is a line you just don't cross, and (Adinolfi) crossed it."