By DAVE ALTIMARI, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Hartford Courant
7:42 PM EDT, August 27, 2013
NEW HAVEN –
Both at his trial months ago and as he waited for a federal judge to sentence him Tuesday, Robert Braddock Jr. maintained his silence.
But moments after he was sentenced to 38 months for his role in accepting fraudulent contributions to former House Speaker Christopher Donovan's ill-fated congressional campaign, Braddock lashed out at the head of the campaign, calling him a "rat."
Outside the courtroom, Braddock said that after his arrest FBI agents tried to get him to wear a wire and trap others involved in the scheme but he refused. He said he was unlike former campaign manager Joshua Nassi and Raymond Soucy, the former corrections official at the center of the scheme to hide the source of campaign contributions in an effort to help kill potential legislation affecting roll-your-own smoke shops.
"Nassi became a rat … and I refused to do that because that's not what we do and I am proud of that,'' Braddock said.
Nassi and seven others, including Soucy, have pleaded guilty to their roles in the scheme to mask the real contributors to Donovan's campaign.
Braddock, 34, is the only one who went to trial and was convicted in May after a jury deliberated for only a few hours. He was facing a sentence of 41 to 51 months, according to federal guidelines.
U.S. District Court Judge Janet Bond Arterton went below those guidelines even though she called the scheme to derail the legislative process and kill potential legislation through conduit donations to Donovan's campaign "one of the crassest, most flagrant violation of Federal Election Commission regulations" she has seen.
"Mr. Braddock didn't initiate it, didn't design it or put it together, but he knew what the scheme was and he encouraged it and praised its organizers," Arterton said. "He had a duty to decline the money and it is that failure to do so that puts him here today."
Arterton was clearly impressed with Braddock's volunteer work with an organization called Deliver the Difference based in Florida and run by his stepfather. The nonprofit group delivers food to the hungry and those affected by tragedies. Braddock has donated more than 2,000 hours to it since his conviction in May.
"Many who are awaiting sentencing do nothing; so to work for 2,000 hours on behalf of hungry here and abroad is very impressive," Arterton said.
Braddock is being allowed to report to prison in mid-November so he can help the agency through its busiest season. Braddock said his sentence will have a significant affect on the group.
Braddock acknowledged that "it could have been a much worse sentence" but said "a day in jail is upsetting." Braddock said there is no way he will ever get involved in politics again.
"You couldn't force me to work in politics ever again,'' Braddock said. "If the judge really wanted to make it worse she could have sentenced me to work for another campaign."
Arterton said that although the $27,500 that was donated to Donovan's campaign by the roll-your-own group was not a large amount of money, a long sentence was required to send a message to others that federal regulations play a critical role in campaigns.
Roll-your-own smoke shop owners from Waterbury were hoping that by contributing $27,000 to Donovan's campaign through conduit contributors they could keep any legislation harmful to their business from a vote.
Some of the money that was donated to the Donovan campaign came from an undercover FBI agent posing as a smoke shop owner. Soucy also became an informant for federal authorities wearing a wire to record numerous conversations with Braddock.
The only defendant to be sentenced previously was David Moffa, a former corrections union official, who Arterton sentenced in June to two years in federal prison. Moffa also asked for a sentence with no jail time, but Arterton gave Moffa, a far less significant player in the roll-your-own scheme that Braddock, a heavy sentence.
In his pre-sentencing memorandum seeking only probation for Braddock, attorney Frank Riccio Jr. wrote that "the trial in many respects was a prosecution of Christopher Donovan — without him being present" and argued his client should not "be punished for the sins or misgivings of former Speaker Donovan."
In an attempt to show that Braddock was not involved in the scheme, Riccio pointed to a recorded phone call between Braddock and Nassi. Nassi made the call on May 25, and federal authorities were listening in.
On the tape, Nassi referred to Soucy's having more checks for the campaign. Then he expressed concerns that the roll-your-own legislation would surface during a coming special session.
Nassi said Soucymade it clear there would be no more checks "unless the thing is dead."
Braddock replied: "Oh. But there is no quid pro quo. As long as everybody understands that there is no quid pro quo, you know."
In their sentencing memorandum, federal prosecutors argued that the jury clearly believed the government's case that "Braddock was on the receiving end of a series of bribe payments. He sought out those payments, coordinated those payments and assured the RYO smoke shop owners that the payments would accomplish their illegal objectives."
Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Mattei wrote that Braddock "coached his co-conspirators and used his position to serve as the gateway between the RYO smoke shop owners and Mr. Donovan."
Mattei said the brazenness of the scheme suggests that the court needs to send a message to others that campaigns in Connecticut are not for sale.
"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 wrote.
Copyright © 2013, The Hartford Courant