Jury Returns Split Verdict In Campaign Finance Case
HARTFORD — A jury reached a split verdict Friday in former state Sen. Ernie Newton’s corruption trial, finding him guilty of illegal campaign practices, not guilty of witness tampering, and reaching no verdict on two larceny charges.
Newton, a Democrat who previously resigned from his office and served time in federal prison for accepting a bribe, has been on trial facing charges he broke campaign finance laws in an effort to recapture his old seat.
After less than six hours of deliberation, a six-person jury declared an impasse Friday on the most serious of the charges facing Newton — two first-degree larceny counts stemming from Newton’s receipt of an $80,000 public campaign finance grant in 2012. The state claimed he obtained the money fraudulently by misrepresenting his qualifying contributions.
Judge Julia D. Dewey declared a mistrial on the two larceny counts. Prosecutors would not immediately say whether they will attempt to retry those counts.
Meanwhile, the jury found Newton guilty of three lesser counts that he engaged in illegal campaign practices by having three campaign workers claim that they had donated to his campaign when they had not. The charges are felonies that carry up to five years in prison. The jury reached no verdict on two other counts of illegal practices.
Newton will remain free on a promise to appear in court for further proceedings. Dewey declined to increase his bond Friday, deeming him not a flight risk.
Newton’s lawyer, Darnell D. Crosland, said a federal probation office has asked him to report on the three new convictions. Newton is still serving the last few months of a term of probation stemming from his earlier convictions.
Crosland said he was pleased with the outcome.
“The witness tampering — we put a strong case together on that and they found him straight out not guilty of tampering with any witnesses,” he said.
Crosland said he doubted the state would seek to retry the two “heavy” larceny charges, upon which the jury did not reach a verdict. He called it a waste of money and time and an “insult” to taxpayers.
“I think it would be torturous. It would be like beating an ant with a billy club if the state came back and tried to force another jury to believe the people that this jury didn’t,” he said.
Newton declined to comment to reporters but hugged Crosland outside the courtroom, telling him, “Great job.”
“I’m proud of you,” Newton said.
Dewey set a sentencing hearing for March 13.