Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Castagna, Soucy Show


“I seen My Opportunities and I Took ’Em” -- George Washington Plunkitt, Tammany Hall boss” 

Patrick Castagna, an FBI informant, was wearing an FBI wire, but the chatty if cynical Ray Soucy, a former union leader and political wheeler dealer, was unaware of this, and so he went on and on and on, sounding for all the world like turn of the century Tammany Hall boss George Washington Plunkitt holding court at his bootblack stand.

Some bon motes from the spurting fountain:

"Chris Murphy will do anything in the (expletive deleted) world for me because he remembers that I was the first one to believe in and invest in him. That's how the system works."

After Mr. Soucy tells Mr. Castagna that he has been sowing the political ground in $10,000 increments, Mr. Castagna, reeling in the fish, doubts that the amount is sufficient.

Says Soucy, “The $10,000 was to let him know you are serious....We're dealing with politicians. We're not dealing with the mob." Pause – “It's a close second."

"Politics is about the Benjamins. [Ben Franklin’s mug is on the highly inflated hundred dollar bill] This game runs on one thing -- dollars."

“Pictures "they're worth a thousand words. The guy running in the 5th District [former House Speaker Chris Donovan] he got 10 pictures [a $10,000 campaign contribution].

And Mr. Soucy does put his feet where his mouth is. He claimed to have dropped 10 “pictures’ into the legislative office refrigerator of Republican House Minority Leader Larry Cafero. Mr. Soucy’s contribution was immediately returned by staffer John Healey. The ever persistent Mr. Soucy said at trial he had later converted the Benjamins into checks deposited into a political action fund controlled by Mr. Cafero.  

Mr. Cafero has issued a rebuttal: “I don't know what Mr. Soucy's status is as a convicted felon, but here's what I know. I know that I've learned that this was part of a sting operation and what I gather to be a poorly executed attempt at a bribe. What I do know is there was no bribe. What's most important to me is that a member of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, when interviewing me, said `you have done nothing wrong, you have done everything right. You have nothing to worry about. Neither you nor your staff have done nothing wrong.' No one took money as a bribe. There was no talk of a bribe."

Mr. Murphy has issued a statement through a spokesman: “Mr. Soucy was an active member of the labor movement and longtime supporter of Democratic campaigns, including Chris'. But the crimes he committed are inexcusable and unacceptable and he should be held fully accountable."

During his testimony, Mr. Soucy acknowledged that some of his statements were hyperbole. The defense attorney for Robert Braddock, Mr. Donovan’s former campaign finance director, is anxious to explore Mr. Soucy’s hyperbole on cross examination.

After newspaper accounts that members of Mr. Donovan’s staff had been indicted for accepting bribes, many of those charged pleaded out and were “cooperative” in the investigation. Mr. Braddock is the only one of eight defendants who held out for a trial on charges of conspiracy to violate federal campaign laws. The colorful Mr. Soucy – who has been called by the defense a “slime ball” – is the prosecution’s star witness. And, of course, so are the tapes.

Mr. Donovan, who lost a primary to Elizabeth Esty largely as a result of mounting publicity surrounding the FBI investigation, has not been charged with wrongdoing in the case. Following Mr. Donovan’s withdrawal, Elizabeth Esty, the wife of Daniel Esty, Governor Dannel Malloy’s Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP), won the seat in a general election.

Prosecutions in sting operations always have about them a theatrical air, chiefly because all the characters arguing for the prosecution have been enlisted by prosecutors as ham actors used to ensnare Plunkitt types anxious to seize their opportunities.  The reputations of bystanders – perhaps Mr. Donovan and Mr. Cafero, who apparently were given notice of the operation by prosecutors – are considered collateral damage. On the judicial side of our tripartite government, even more so than in an election, winning is everything. Truth, a stranger to all, often sits in the back row of theatrical shows such as this one, mute and alone.      
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