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Former Fundraiser Gets 38 Months In Prison For Role In Corruption Scheme

by Hugh McQuaid | Aug 27, 2013 6:51pm
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Posted to: Congress, Courts, Election 2012, Town News, New Haven, Legal, Smoke Shop Investigation

Hugh McQuaid photo

Robert Braddock Jr. and his lawyer Frank Riccio II walk into a New Haven courthouse Tuesday

A federal court judge Tuesday sentenced the former campaign finance director to Chris Donovan’s unsuccessful congressional campaign to more than three years in prison for his role in a conspiracy to hide the source of campaign donations.

The campaign finance director, Robert Braddock Jr., was found guilty in May of three counts of conspiring to conceal the source of $27,500 in campaign donations. The case stems from a federal investigation into illegal donations to the former state House speaker’s 2010 campaign for the 5th district congressional seat.

U.S. District Judge Janet Bond Arterton sentenced Braddock to 38 months in federal prison as well as a $7,500 fine.

Standing on the steps of the courthouse after the hearing, Braddock spoke publicly for the first time since his 2012 arrest by federal authorities that dealt a critical blow to Donovan’s political ambitions.

Although prosecutors indicated Braddock planned to return to campaign fundraising when his case had been resolved, Braddock said his own political ambitions are over as well.

“You couldn’t force me to work in politics ever again. The judge — if she wanted to be extra harsh, she should have sentenced me to work on another congressional campaign,” he said.

Braddock was one of eight men charged in the conspiracy last summer. The group also included Josh Nassi, a Donovan confidante serving as his campaign manager, and Ray Soucy, a former correction officer and Democratic political operative, as well as a handful of investors in the now-defunct “roll-your-own” tobacco industry.

Over a period of months, the FBI flipped several of the co-conspirators, who agreed to wear wiretaps and make secretly recorded phone calls on behalf of the government. Braddock was the only one who maintained a not guilty plea and took his case to trial.

Braddock said he was disappointed by the prison sentence, but he considered it a “point of pride” that he did not agree to wear a wire for the FBI.

“I still have my integrity. Since the first day I was detained by the FBI, for a very long time after that, they continuously asked me to cooperate. They asked me to wear a wire, much like Ray Soucy did and Josh Nassi, who became a rat as well, and I refused to do that because that’s not what we do,” he said.

Frank Riccio Jr., Braddock lawyer, said he had not yet decided whether to appeal the conviction and sentence. Riccio had asked the judge not to impose a prison sentence on his client. Prosecutors recommended a sentence of between 41 and 51 months — a range within federal guidelines.

Arterton, who praised Braddock’s work for a Florida charity run by his stepfather, imposed a sentence just below the minimum sentence of 41 months recommended by federal guidelines.

The judge said the sentence needed to reflect the seriousness of the corruption crime and to serve as a deterrent for others who may seek to circumvent federal campaign finance laws.

“Neither side disputes the seriousness, and it’s a seriousness not measured by dollar value,” she said, adding that $27,500 was not a huge number. “It’s measured by the brazen corruption of this whole scheme to the federal campaign contribution system.”

U.S. Assistant Attorney Christopher Mattei said it was important that Braddock’s sentence be an adequate punishment for a crime that fuels public alienation from the government.

“Who gets left out in the cold when that entire [campaign finance] process is concealed from the public? The public,” Mattei said. “Who gets hurt? The people of Connecticut get hurt. The voters of the 5th district get hurt.”

Arterton agreed that campaign finance violations were unacceptable, especially as the nation is struggling to keep track of the influx of money into political campaigns. 

“Campaign finance regulations, difficult as they may be to understand, play a critical role as we grapple with how we regulate money in campaigns,” she said. “This was one of crassest, most flagrant violations of FEC regulation.”

But the judge said she was “very impressed” by Braddock’s work with his stepfather’s anti-hunger charity, Deliver the Difference. She allowed Braddock to surrender himself to authorities to serve his sentence after one of the group’s events as late as Nov. 15.

“Maybe it is a calling and maybe it does reflect the direction of Mr. Braddock’s work in life from now on,” she said of his efforts on behalf of the charity.

Of the eight men convicted of the conspiracy charges, Arterton has now sentenced only Braddock and former correction officer David Moffa. Former Waterbury police offer and smoke shop investor George Tirado will be sentenced Sept. 3, and straw donor and smoke shop employee Ben Hogan will be sentenced Sept. 4.

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