Hugh McQuaid photo
Harry “Ray” Soucy walks out of court Monday (Hugh McQuaid photo)

(Updated 1:44 p.m.) The architect of the campaign fundraising conspiracy that derailed Chris Donovan’s 2012 congressional bid won’t see the inside of a prison cell thanks to his efforts to help federal authorities build a case against his co-conspirators.

A federal court judge on Monday handed Harry “Ray” Soucy a sentence of six months in a halfway house, three years of probation and a $5,000 fine.

Soucy, a former correction officer and union official, conspired to hide the source of $27,500 in donations to Donovan’s campaign from tobacco store owners seeking to buy influence and kill legislation harmful to their business.

Donovan was not charged with a crime but lost the bid for the Democratic nomination for the 5th Congressional District to current Rep. Elizabeth Esty following the arrest of two of his campaign staffers.

Monday’s sentence was a departure for Judge Janet Bond Arterton, who in sentencing other defendants in the case has sought to drive home the message “that the cost of corruption ought to be too high.” Five men, including tobacco shop investors and campaign staffers, already have been handed prison sentences of at least 21 months for their roles in the scheme

But at the urging of prosecutors, Arterton sought to convey a secondary message with Soucy’s sentence—it pays to cooperate with authorities.

“If you’ve gotten deep into the weeds of public corruption there is a way out, which can be by extraordinary cooperation and assistance to the government,” Arterton said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Glover asked the judge to depart from the 24 and 30 months in prison Soucy faced under federal sentencing guidelines. Although Soucy’s conduct in putting together the attempted bribery scheme was egregious, Glover said Soucy proved to be a “high value” and timely witness for the government.

Glover said Soucy agreed to cooperate immediately after being confronted by federal agents, making secretly recorded phone calls for the government that very evening.

“In some respects it was a seamless transition. He just kept doing what he was doing, except this time the government could record it,” he said.

In sentencing Soucy’s co-defendants to prison terms ranging from 21 -38 months, Glover said Arterton had already sent a message aimed at deterring public corruption.

“It’s important as well to send second message,” Glover said. “… People in this state and elsewhere need to understand that cooperation does provide a benefit.”

Soucy’s lawyer, Steven Rasile, agreed, saying his client had “done everything under the sun” to earn a reduced sentence. He said if Arterton wanted people to feel comfortable agreeing to cooperate with the F.B.I., his sentence had to reflect that cooperation.

“If you want to send that message the only thing you can do is send him home,” Rasile said.

Rasile acknowledged his client’s crass demeanor. During the trial of Robert Braddock, Donovan’s finance director, prosecutors played for the jury a series of secretly recorded phone calls and conversations. The jury had to be warned several times of the vulgar and offensive comments Soucy made during some of the recordings.

Early on, Rasile said he dismissed Soucy due to his behavior. However, the lawyer said he had since gotten to know his client and saw Soucy as a man who went out of his way to help others, including his elderly mother.

During his remarks, Rasile turned to address reporters in the courtroom covering the case, and suggested they did not have a complete picture of Soucy.

“None of you know Ray Soucy like I do,” he said. “… He may be crass, but he’s honest… you may not like his manner, but he’s always on the level.”

In sentencing Soucy to serve his term in a halfway house, Arterton said she took Soucy’s past efforts to help others into consideration, as well as his health problems. Soucy suffered as heart attack days after he was first confronted by F.B.I agents and has lingering back problems from a car accident.

She said he will also still be able to have some contact with his ailing mother.

Although she felt some sort of imprisonment was appropriate for Soucy, Arterton said she did not think it needed to be served in a federal prison.

“Mr. Soucy has made his own prison by his conduct as well as his cooperation,” she said.

Arterton said life in a halfway house is difficult. It has strict rules that must be followed, work requirements, and fellow residents who “can be rough.”

“These are not features that suggest Mr. Soucy has ‘walked away’ from this,” she said.

Below is a list of co-conspirators in the case and the sentences they received.

David Moffa – 24 months, the low-end of the guideline range

Ben Hogan – 21 months, three months below the low-end of the guideline range

George Tirado – 26 months, two months above the low-end of the guideline range

Joshua Nassi – 28 months, two months below the low-end of the guideline range

Robert Braddock – 38 months, three months below the low-end of his guideline

Harry “Ray” Soucy—six months in a halfway house

Paul Rogers, a co-owner of one of the smoke shops—has not yet been sentenced

Click here to read our timeline of the events.