A lawyer for Robert Braddock, Jr. asked a federal court judge this week not to impose a prison sentence on his recently-convicted client, citing recorded evidence not presented to the jury during his May trial.
A jury found Braddock guilty in May of three counts of conspiring to hide the source of $27,500 in campaign donations. The case stems from a federal investigation into illegal donations made to former House Speaker Chris Donovan’s failed congressional campaign.
Braddock, who served as Donovan’s finance director, was one of eight men charged with 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.
During the court proceedings, defense lawyer Frank Riccio II argued that his client was unaware of illegal activities. 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 which would cut into their profits.
A jury in a New Haven courthouse ultimately disagreed.
In a sentencing memo filed this week in federal court, Riccio said the FBI recorded a call which was not presented to the jury during the trial because of “evidentiary restrictions.” According to the memo, the call was made on May 25, 2012, by Nassi — who was at that point cooperating with the government — to Braddock. Riccio said the transcript of the call helps support his client’s claim that he was unaware of the conspiracy.
Near the beginning of the transcript included in the sentencing memo, Braddock tells Nassi he wanted to make sure Nassi wasn’t harmed by Soucy.
During the trial, prosecutors played many recordings featuring Soucy, who often spoke in a vulgar and threatening manner. Riccio frequently referred to him as a “creep” and someone who “makes your skin crawl.” Evidence suggested that Soucy organized the illegal donation scheme for the tobacco shop owners.
Although the legislation Soucy sought to defeat was never raised in the 2012 regular legislative session, it was passed in an implementer session after the call took place. What follows is a portion of the transcript in the sentencing memo:
Rob [Braddock]: It’s all good. I wanted to make sure you weren’t put into cement shoes by Ray Soucy.
Josh [Nassi]: Ray is so [expletive] sketchy. He says he has more checks for us.
Rob: Really? OK. Great.
Josh: But the thing is that there is this implementer session coming up and the issue he’s always been concerned about is like being talked about for the session he says oh well you don’t get the money unless the thing is dead.
Rob: Oh. But there is no quid pro quo.
Rob: As long as everybody understands that there is no quid pro quo, you know.
Josh: Yeah I don’t know what to do.
[long awkward silence]
Riccio said the conversation lends support to his argument that Braddock was not participating in the illegal scheme. Throughout the 27-page memo, he suggests that there was never enough evidence to prove his client was aware of the conspiracy.
“The trial in many respects [was] a prosecution of Christopher Donovan without him being present. Counsel requested during closing arguments, and requests again, that Mr. Braddock not be punished for the sins or misgivings of former Speaker Donovan,” Riccio wrote.
Braddock faces a maximum sentence of 12 years in prison and each of the three counts he was convicted of carries a $250,000 fine. He will go again before Judge Janet Bond Arterton for sentencing on Aug. 27.
In the memo, Riccio suggests that Braddock should not see the inside of a prison cell. He calls for a sentence of three years probation, a year of home confinement, and 1,500 hours of community service.
“. . . the suggested sentence reflects the seriousness of the offense and provides just punishment. Moreover, Mr. Braddock has been stripped of his profession, deprived of his source of income, labeled a convicted felon, with all the attendant stigma, has been publicly shamed and has had to endure the emotional and financial strains of the investigation and prosecution,” Riccio wrote.
So far, only one other defendant in the case, David Moffa, has been sentenced. If the severity of Moffa’s sentence is any indication, Braddock and Riccio may be disappointed. Arterton handed Moffa, a former correction officer, a two-year prison sentence and a $5,000 fine for his somewhat peripheral role in the conspiracy.
“I realize this sentence is one of particular shock given your career, but the message is that the cost of corruption ought to be too high,” Arterton told Moffa in June.
According to a summary of his community service work included in Riccio’s sentencing memo, Braddock has not been idle since being convicted. He received permission from the court to travel to Oklahoma in May to help out after severe tornadoes devastated parts of the state. He was photographed and included in a local news report during the recovery effort.