In a Greenwich, Connecticut, enclave whose multimillion-dollar estates are favored by hedge fund moguls and come with their own private security force, the secret videos went undetected for nearly a year.
The recordings showed several minors in intimate situations without their knowledge, according to authorities, who classified one of them as an “obscene performance.”
Now the source of growing chatter in town, the videos were the work of one of the neighborhood’s own.
The woman who recorded them, Hadley Palmer, 53, pleaded guilty in January to several felony charges in the voyeurism case. Last week, the judge sealed the court records, over the objections of a reporter for The Associated Press, highlighting the tension between open access to court records and calls for victims’ privacy.
A Greenwich psychologist has also been arrested on a charge that he had failed to report the matter, as required by Connecticut’s child welfare laws.
Authorities say that Palmer committed the crimes in 2017 and 2018 in Belle Haven, where public records show that she had been living in a $10 million 19th-century Victorian home overlooking Long Island Sound. The enclave is known for the 1975 slaying of Martha Moxley and the now-overturned conviction of Michael Skakel, a Kennedy cousin, in her murder.
In Belle Haven, privacy is paramount — so much so that the bylaws strictly prohibit outsiders from toting cameras.
Palmer was arrested in October on several charges that included employing a minor in an obscene performance, three counts of voyeurism, second-degree possession of child sexual abuse imagery and risk of injury to a child.
All three victims were minors at the time of the crimes, Capt. Mark E. Zuccerella, a Greenwich Police Department spokesperson, said Monday. At least one of the victims was 15 or younger, prompting the child endangerment charge, police said.
As part of a plea deal, prosecutors agreed to drop all but the voyeurism and child endangerment charges.
According to the agreement — one of the few unsealed documents in the case — Palmer will be required to register as a sex offender. Prosecutors have recommended that she serve 90 days to five years in prison, along with 20 years of probation.
Her sentencing is scheduled for August, but Palmer was admitted Feb. 4 to the York Correctional Institution, a women’s prison in Niantic, Connecticut, where she is inmate No. 439165, according to the Connecticut Department of Correction. It was not immediately clear whether Palmer was trying to get a head start on her sentence.
For several months, Palmer’s arrest remained largely obscured from the glare of the public and the media. Her lawyer moved in January to seal the case file and close all court proceedings, citing privacy concerns related to the victims, whose own lawyers supported that measure.
Palmer, whose father founded a hedge fund and who has been frequently photographed at charity benefits in Greenwich and New York City, was released on $750,000 bond.
Last week, a judge in Connecticut Superior Court in Stamford granted a motion to seal the case, a move that had been opposed by The Associated Press. During a Feb. 1 hearing, Dave Collins, a veteran reporter for the wire service based in Connecticut, said that the handling of the case after Palmer’s arrest had set a disturbing precedent, according to an audio recording of the proceeding obtained by The New York Times through a public records request.
“The appearance is almost as if this is a second-tier of justice, where some people keep things secret,” Collins said.
Collins said during the hearing that it was commonplace for the names of defendants and court dates to appear on a public website maintained by the Connecticut Judicial Branch, especially for those accused of crimes in which the victims were children. One of the few items that appeared online, he said, was a one-page notice about the hearing on her request to seal the case.
“The public needs to know how these cases are handled and adjudicated,” Collins said. “Everybody else’s case is online. Why isn’t Mrs. Palmer’s case?”
Michael T. Meehan, a lawyer for Palmer, responded during the hearing that his client had not sought special treatment and that her name had appeared on a printout of the docket in the courthouse lobby on at least four occasions. The defendant never asked to keep her information private before the motion to seal the file, he said.
Meehan did not immediately respond to several requests for additional comment.
During the hearing, Judge John F. Blawie of the Connecticut Superior Court said that he had no control of the online records in the case.
“There is no two-tiered justice,” Blawie said.
In his ruling Wednesday, Blawie wrote that protecting the victims in the case outweighed keeping the case file open.
“If the defendant may be considered as having thrust herself into the public spotlight by virtue of her wrongful behavior and subsequent prosecution, the same may not be said of those parties already adversely impacted by this case,” Blawie wrote.
Through a judicial branch spokesperson, Blawie declined to comment further.
Eugene J. Riccio, a lawyer for one of the victims, said in an email Friday that his client appreciated the court’s move to protect privacy. And Audrey A. Felsen, who represents another victim, said that the sealing order had nothing to do with the defendant — it was a victims’ rights issue. Lawyers for the other victims either declined to comment or did not respond to messages.
Just over a month after her initial arrest, Palmer was arrested a second time for violating certain terms and conditions of her pretrial release, according to court records, which did not specify what those violations were. As part of the plea agreement, prosecutors agreed to drop the charge associated with her second arrest.
In December, Dr. Jerome F. Brodlie, 83, a psychologist who specializes in treating children and adolescents and is affiliated with Greenwich Hospital, was arrested in connection with the case, authorities said. He was charged with failing to report abuse, neglect or injury of a child or imminent risk of serious harm to a child, a misdemeanor.
Brodlie did not respond to an email seeking comment Thursday, and his lawyer, Andrew B. Bowman, did not respond to requests for comment Thursday and Friday. Pleading information for Brodlie was not available because his case was sealed, and his status with Greenwich Hospital was not immediately clear. A request for comment was also left for the hospital.
Court records show that Palmer applied in October to a pretrial accelerated rehabilitation program, a pathway typically reserved for first-time offenders in lower-level criminal cases to avoid jail time. She later withdrew her application and agreed to the plea agreement in January.
Palmer, who has four children, is the daughter of Jerrold Fine, who in 1976 started Charter Oak Partners Management in Westport, Connecticut, one of the first hedge funds, according to a profile of him on the website of the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.
Online searches for Palmer yielded an array of photos of her at charity benefits and society events on Connecticut’s Gold Coast and in Manhattan. There was a gala at Sotheby’s in New York benefiting pharmaceutical advances for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease and a Wall Street tennis challenge at a private club in Greenwich to support ovarian cancer research, both in 2016.
In June 2020, Palmer filed for divorce from her husband of 28 years, Bradley C. Palmer, a Greenwich financier, court records show. Bradley Palmer did not respond to several requests for comment Thursday, including messages left with his divorce lawyers.
This wasn’t the first time that the couple encountered controversy. In 2018, a home owned by a limited liability company registered to Bradley Palmer on Martha’s Vineyard hosted a party at which several teenagers in attendance went on a vandalism spree, according to authorities and public records.
Two teenagers were arrested and at least 14 properties in the Edgartown, Massachusetts, neighborhood known for its whaling captain homes were vandalized, The Vineyard Gazette reported, adding that the teenagers were mostly from Greenwich and were expected to fly home on a private jet.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.