A federal appeals court has upheld the conviction of Robert Braddock Jr., a political aide serving more than three years in prison for campaign finance conspiracy while working for former House Speaker Chris Donovan’s congressional campaign.
Braddock was the finance director for Donovan’s unsuccessful 2012 bid to represent the 5th Congressional District. He and seven other men were convicted of concealing the source of $27,500 in campaign donations from tobacco shop owners who wanted Donovan to kill state legislation that would have cut into their profits.
The former House speaker has maintained that he did not know of the conspiracy. He was not charged by prosecutors.
Braddock was the only conspirator to take his case to trial. Other defendants entered guilty pleas. They 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.
In his appeal, Braddock argued that prosecutors failed to bring sufficient evidence against him and that Judge Janet Bond Arterton had applied sentencing guidelines too strictly when she imposed a 38-month prison sentence in August 2013.
The Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals disagreed with those and other points in a ruling Tuesday. The court pointed to recorded conversations used as evidence in Braddock’s case. The FBI flipped several of the co-conspirators, who agreed to wear wiretaps and make secretly recorded phone calls on behalf of the government.
The court also agreed with Arterton’s sentence, which she said was designed to serve in part as a deterrent to campaign corruption.
“Campaign finance regulations, difficult as they may be to understand, play a critical role as we grapple with how we regulate money in campaigns,” Arterton said last year. “This was one of crassest, most flagrant violations of [Federal Elections Commission] regulation.”
In the decision written for the appellate court, a three-judge panel found that Arterton properly weighed Braddock’s sentence.
“The district court properly considered Braddock’s history and characteristics, the seriousness of the offense, and the need for deterrence, and the below-Guidelines sentence imposed was not ‘shockingly high’ or ‘otherwise unsupportable as a matter of law,” they wrote.
Arterton recently presided over the campaign corruption trial of former Gov. John Rowland. The former governor was convicted of charges related to a separate conspiracy in the 2012 5th Congressional District race. Both Rowland and Braddock were also tried by the same prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Mattei. Arterton is expected to sentence Rowland in January.