Thursday, August 23, 2007

In This Corner, DeLuca

Senator Lou DeLuca has painted himself into a corner from which he cannot escape.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation had been tapping the phone lines of “trash magnate,” so one newspaper put it, James Galante, who supposedly had ties to the Mob, when they stumbled upon DeLuca.

DeLuca was having family problems.

He had contacted Galante, who signaled DeLuca that he would dispatch, with DeLuca’s approval, a couple of tough guys to intimidate Mark Collela. DeLuca was fretting that Collela had abused his grand daughter, whom Collela later married.

The FBI arranged a decoy to talk to DeLuca. The conversation between DeLuca and the FBI agent, posing as a confederate of Galante’s, has not been disclosed in full, but in the course of their tete a tete, DeLuca was offered a bribe, which he refused but did not report. DeLuca, in an expansive mood, promised he would do anything possible to help Galante. DeLuca may have been signaling Galante, through a third party he thought was a business associate of the trash magnate, that he appreciated the “visit” Galante promised to arrange with his future son-in-law.

As it turned out, there was no visit. Galante’s tough guys, frightened off by a state police detective the FBI had conspicuously posted at Collela’s house, apparently weren’t that tough.

Someone at the FBI -- little changed since the days when good old J. Edgar Hoover’s spooks tapped phones and use secret information gathered on politicians to prosecute criminals -- apparently decided that a deal made between the FBI and a crippled DeLuca might strengthen the case they had been building against what is left of the Mob in New England, presently led by a 85 year old geezer who, if he does not cop a plea, almost certainly will not survive the usual appeals in a case like his.

If DeLuca had not taken the first step, contacting tough guy Galante, he need need not have taken the second, confessing to an FBI agent that he was willing to put himself at the service of someone who was paying tribute to a reputed caporegime, or the third, refusing a bribe but then declining to report the bribe to the relevant authorities.

The road to his own private Hell, DeLuca now says, was paved with good intentions. He had an acquaintance, not directly associated with the Mob, arrange to “pay a visit” to a boyfriend who had been abusing his grand daughter. He had privately complained to police, but the police had done little, a charge vigorously disputed by the police. Certainly, what he did was wrong, and he has been punished for it. He has been deprived of his leadership position in the senate; he has suffered public humiliation; he has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor, conspiracy to commit second-degree threatening, and paid a fine. Has he not made amends through his suffering?

Interestingly enough, DeLuca pleaded guilty to a charge that was a spent shell. DeLuca could not have been prosecuted on the charge because the statute of limitations had expired. With the connivance of state and federal prosecutors, DeLuca avoided being charged with a felony that might have carried a five year sentence, making a false charge to federal agents. Some have speculated that prosecutors felt they needed DeLuca’s willing testimony to secure a conviction against Galante and, somewhat down the road, 85 year-old Mob geezer, Matthew "Matty the Horse" Ianniello.

DeLuca’s view of things – that he has suffered enough and his constituents should decide whether he is fit to serve in the senate – is about to be challenged by his confederates in the legislature. They will do both DeLuca and his constituents a worthwhile service if they show DeLuca the door, and at the same time create legislation providing that any servant of the people in Connecticut who is offered a bribe and does not report it should be instantly dismissed.

Such legislation will make honest men and women of potential bribe takers who hold public office. If a law of this kind had been in effect when DeLuca sat down to have a chat with the person whom he had supposed was a business associate of Galante, he might well have had second thoughts about his first step into a prosecutorial mare’s nest.

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