Connectict psychotherapist John Gagnon sentenced on weapons charge

March 18, 2011

A licensed psychotherapist with an unusual criminal record pleaded guilty Tuesday and avoided jail time after being accused of possessing firearms as a convicted felon when police last spring found two antique revolvers in his home.

John Gagnon, 64, of Oaklawn Avenue, Stamford, faced charges of possessing a firearm as a convicted felon that were lessened as a part of his plea deal, said defense attorney Stephan Seeger. Gagnon instead pleaded guilty to a single count of carrying a dangerous weapon, and must serve the next five years on probation as part of his sentence, which included a three-year suspended jail term.

Gagnon was charged with violating his probation from a 2008 marijuana possession arrest, but testimony from a psychiatrist helped determine he would not benefit from prison and his probation from the drug offense was allowed to end, Seeger said.

His most recent probation stint includes some unusual conditions. He must not possess uniforms, badges or insignia without the express consent of his probation officers, court records show. That's because Gagnon has an odd criminal history that drew the attention of both prosecutors and Chris Hansen, the "Dateline" NBC journalist who hosted the popular "To Catch a Predator Series."

On a January episode of the show, Gagnon, a therapist who works from his home office, falsely told a couple that he worked in U.S. Army intelligence. The couple was actually an undercover team working for "Dateline" and secretly recording the session. Another former patient told the television show Gagnon lied about being an Army general just returning from a mission.

When Hansen confronted him during the television show about not telling patients about his past, Gagnon broke down and told the broadcast journalist he was set up during his first arrest because he was about to expose police corruption.

In 1987, Gagnon was arrested for wearing a silver badge and driving a car that appeared to be an unmarked police car outfitted with a red flashing light.

He pulled a woman over with an expired temporary registration in Brookfield and told her he would let her go if she would have sex with him, according to the appellate court decision that upheld his convictions. Gagnon then grabbed the woman's breasts, the documents said. The woman put her car in gear and sped off.

Gagnon was convicted of criminal impersonation and third-degree sexual assault. As a result of the felony conviction, he has a lifetime listing on the state's Sex Offender Registry.

Also in 2004, a patient made a police complaint about Gagnon wearing a general's uniform while giving therapy.

In his most recent arrest last May, Stamford police officers were investigating a separate complaint against Gagnon when they found a car registered to Gagnon that was outfitted to look like a "government vehicle" with several scanners and radios mounted inside, court records said. The officers also found large knives and medieval-style axes on his garage walls, records said.

Staff Writer Jeff Morganteen can be reached at jeff.morganteen@scni.com or 203-964-2215.

They also found several different types of "Air Soft" weapons, or plastic guns that shoot plastic pellets at low speeds.

Seeger said authorities removed hundreds of Air Soft weapons from Gagnon's home and that they will stay with someone else for safekeeping. Seeger said his client's criminal record drew inordinate attention to his most recent weapons charges.

"I respect the fact that the state's attorney took a close enough look at this case so that an appropriate resolution could be reached that did not involve a jail sentence," Seeger said.

Source: Jeff Morganteen, "Stamford therapist gets probation in weapons case," Stamford Advocate, March 4, 2011.

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