HARTFORD — The former finance director for Chris Donovan's ill-fated congressional campaign, convicted of participating in a scheme to hide the sources of contributions to the campaign, is asking a judge to give him probation rather than a jail sentence.
Robert Braddock Jr. faces up to 51 months in a federal prison when he is sentenced Aug. 27 by U.S. District Court Judge Janet Arterton.
Braddock's attorney Frank Riccio Jr. argues in a pre-sentencing memorandum that Braddock wasn't part of a conspiracy — hatched by Raymond Soucy, a former Department of Correction officer — to give money to Donovan's campaign in exchange for assurances that the then-Speaker of the House would kill proposed legislation to tax roll-your-own tobacco shops.
Donovan's campaign manager Joshua Nassi and seven others, including Soucy, have pleaded guilty to their roles in the scheme to mask the real contributors to Donovan's campaign. The 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 the 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. Braddock was the only one of the defendants to go to trial.
"There is, simply, a lack of evidence that suggests that Mr. Braddock was a co-conspirator with Soucy and others in this scheme," Riccio wrote. "The trial in many respects was a prosecution of Christopher Donovan — without him being present."
Riccio argued that Braddock 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 points to a recorded phone call between Braddock and Nassi. Nassi made the call May 25, and federal authorities were listening in.
On the tape, Nassi refers to Soucy having more checks for the campaign. Then he expressed concerns that the roll-your-own legislation would surface during an upcoming special session.
Nassi said Soucy had made it clear there would be no more checks "unless the thing is dead."
Braddock replies, "Oh. But there is no quid pro quo. As long as everybody understands that there is no quid pro quo, you know."
Soucy became a government witness. He was convicted in May by a federal jury in New Haven after only a few hours of deliberations.
Prosecutors, in their pre-sentence memorandum, argue that Braddock should be sentenced to somewhere between the federal guideline recommendation of 41-51 months.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Mattei downplayed the conversation between Nassi and Braddock, writing that Riccio didn't try to bring the tape in as evidence at trial because he knew it would then allow the government to use a statement Braddock gave to the FBI after his arrest.
During that interview, Mattei said, "Mr. Braddock confirmed what the trial evidence established, namely, that he knew that Mr. Soucy and the RYO smoke shop owners were seeking to bribe Mr. Donovan and that he nonetheless accepted the contributions."
Mattei said Braddock's "no quid pro quo" comment was a self-serving statement "designed to make it appear that no such agreement existed when, in fact, all the participants understood that it did. Mr. Braddock apparently realized that the jury would come to the same conclusion, and elected not to offer this evidence."
Mattei said 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. He 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 sheer 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.
"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. The Government respectfully submits that the Court's sentence should aim to do so."