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Federal Prosecutors: Conspiracy Was ‘An Affront To Our Most Fundamental Democratic Principles’

by Christine Stuart | Aug 19, 2013 5:29am
(5) Comments | Commenting has expired
Posted to: Courts, Election 2012, Legal, Smoke Shop Investigation

Hugh McQuaid file photo

U.S. Assistant Attorneys Eric Glover and Christopher Mattei outside New Haven Courthouse in May

Federal prosecutors are asking a judge to sentence Chris Donovan’s former campaign finance director to between three and four years in prison for his role in concealing the identity of campaign contributors, according to recently filed court documents.

Robert Braddock Jr. — who was found guilty in May of three counts of conspiring to hide the source of $27,500 in campaign donations — is expected to be sentenced Aug. 27.

In a motion filed last week, U.S. Assistant Attorneys Christopher Mattei and Eric Glover asked Judge Janet Arterton to sentence Braddock to 41 to 51 months in a federal penitentiary. Braddock was the only one of eight men charged in the conspiracy to plead not guilty and take his case to trial.

A jury convicted Braddock after about two hours of deliberation in May. But Braddock’s attorney, Frank Riccio II, maintained that his client should get no jail time, citing recorded evidence not presented to the jury during his May trial.

He said none of the government’s recorded evidence proved that Braddock knew of a scheme to illegally funnel money into the campaign for tobacco shop owners, who wanted Donovan to kill state legislation that would cut into their profits. Riccio said a May 25, 2012, recording by the FBI proved his client was not aware of any quid pro quo, but because of “evidentiary restrictions,” the jury never got to hear it.

The government strongly disagreed in its memo to the court that the May 25, 2012, conversation supports Braddock’s claim of innocence.

“First, it should be noted that, at trial, Mr. Braddock wisely elected not to offer evidence of this conversation because such an offer would have ‘opened the door’ to the government’s use of a post-arrest statement that Mr. Braddock made to the FBI pursuant to a proffer agreement,” Mattei and Glover wrote. “The apparent purpose of such an offer would have been to show that Mr. Braddock was not a party to any quid pro quo arrangement between the RYO [Roll-Your-Own] smoke shop owners and certain campaign officials.”

“Putting aside that that government was not required to prove the existence of such an agreement, the reality is that Mr. Braddock was unequivocally aware that the RYO smoke shop owners were funding contributions in exchange for specific legislative action, that Mr. Braddock accepted those contributions and then assured the RYO smoke shop owners that the outcome would be favorable for them,” prosecutors wrote in their memo.

When presented with all the other trial evidence, the statement by Braddock that there was no “quid pro quo” would have been viewed as “self-serving” and “designed to make it appear that no such agreement existed when, in fact, all the participants understood that it did,” Mattei and Glover wrote.

The defense rested without offering a single witness or asking Braddock to take the stand in his own defense.

During the trial, Riccio attempted to distinguish his client from Donovan and Connecticut’s political establishment. Court proceedings included numerous secretly recorded phone conversations and wiretapped meetings involving Braddock and public officials. Among those recorded were Donovan, House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero, and House Majority Leader Joe Aresimowicz, each of whom were recorded interacting with Harry “Ray” Soucy, an often vulgar former correction officer and union official.

Christine Stuart file photo

Frank Riccio II with Robert Braddock behind him address the media last year after pleading not guilty

In his closing arguments, Riccio told the jury that the trial seemed so focused on other personalities that, at times, he had to turn to his right and confirm that Braddock was still the defendant.

Prosecutors struck back against that argument in their memo to the court.

“Finally, defense counsel continues to try to deflect attention from Mr. Braddock’s conduct by asserting that Mr. Braddock’s trial was really a prosecution of Mr. Donovan. To come to this conclusion is to misunderstand that nature of the conspiracy in which each participant has his own role and function,” they wrote. “. . . He accepted the contributions. He coached Mr. Soucy and others in their dealings with Mr. Donovan. He assured the RYO smoke shop owners that they would achieve a favorable outcome.”

The sentencing memo says that if the smoke shop owners had gotten their way it could have resulted in a $100 million loss in funding to the state from the Master Tobacco Settlement Agreement.

“In a very real sense, then, this hidden arrangement to give one politician campaign funds in exchange for assurances that a handful of smoke shop owners could continue to exploit a tax loophole, threatened to deprive the people of Connecticut $100 million in revenue at a time when the state’s fiscal condition was precarious,” the memo says.

But in the end, according to prosecutors, it was about more than money.

“In sum, this conspiracy was an offense against the citizens of Connecticut and an affront to our most fundamental democratic principles,” the memo says. “Mr. Braddock and his co-conspirators trampled on those principles in pursuit of their own narrow political objectives.”

Since his conviction in May, Braddock, who wasn’t part of the Connecticut political scene before taking the job with Donovan, has been working for his step-father’s Florida-based nonprofit organization, Deliver the Difference. But according to prosecutors, he plans to return to political fundraising following his sentencing in the case.

“Mr. Braddock is in need of specific deterrence. It appears from his submissions that Mr. Braddock intends to take the next fundraising position he can find and would not hesitate to engage in the same type of conduct for which he is about to be sentenced because he sees nothing wrong with his conduct,” prosecutors wrote in their memo.

That’s just one of the many reasons they are asking the court to make an example of Braddock, whom they describe as the “central figure” in the conspiracy.

“The government submits that there is an urgent need for the Court’s sentence to announce clearly to those in positions of trust within campaigns and government that this type of behavior is not only illegal, but intolerable.”

Mattei and Glover also noted the political establishment’s attempt to ignore the case.

“It appears that some individuals in this state continue to believe that the political or material benefits of corruption outweigh the risks of detection and incarceration. For those individuals, notions of personal integrity and responsible citizenship may not be sufficiently compelling to dissuade them from acting corruptly.”

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(5) Comments

posted by: Wiley Coyote | August 19, 2013  8:59am

How Aresimowicz and Cafero have not been investigated or asked to resign by their own parties is a symbol of how corrupt the CT legislature truly is. Any normal person reading the transcripts in this case sees right through them and their “clever” way of trying to talk around the illegal transactions.

How AFSCME Council4 still allows Aresimowicz to still work for them while his cohorts are off to prison (Moffa & Soucy)is disgusting and against what the union movement stands for.  AFSCME Council 4 have sold their souls just to have influence in the legislature as Aresimowicz is deputy speaker and afscme council 4 employee.

How can I believe the Union or the Legislature is against corruption when this case and it’s participants actions are so quickly and quietly swept under the rug.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS | August 19, 2013  9:46am

This is why i keep saying.you do not have to vote you can buy them.

posted by: brutus2011 | August 19, 2013  11:02am

brutus2011

US atty’s Mattei and Glover make a chilling statement:

“It appears that some individuals in this state continue to believe that the political or material benefits of corruption outweigh the risks of detection and incarceration. For those individuals, notions of personal integrity and responsible citizenship may not be sufficiently compelling to dissuade them from acting corruptly.”

Boardroom or street corner, it’s all the same game.

posted by: Matt W. | August 19, 2013  2:09pm

Matt W.

Amen Ray.  There may not be sufficient evidence to lock them all up but at the very least they should all be looking for work.  The Kenneth Lay defense (yes I’m in charge but I have no idea what is going on right under my nose) might fly in avoiding prosecution by the FBI but it shouldn’t fly for us.

posted by: art vandelay | August 20, 2013  7:48am

art vandelay

The Connecticut State Legislature is as corrupt as the Teamsters were when Jimmy Hoffa was in charge.  A full blown investigation from top to bottom needs to be administered by the FBI.  It’s what happens when one political party has been in control for the last 60 years.  The legislature is owned by the unions which are just as corrupt as Hoffa’s Teamsters are today.