By SUSAN HAIGH, Associated Press
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) _ A Branford attorney nominated to the Superior Court assured state lawmakers on Friday that she told former clients involved in an alleged pyramid scheme “there was absolutely no way” they could change their so-called gifting tables club “to make it OK ever” under Connecticut law.
Appearing under oath before the General Assembly’s Judiciary Committee for her confirmation hearing, Shelley Marcus said under intense questioning that she’s “perfectly confident” that she handled the matter correctly.
“You can tell people certain things and some of them can choose to hear you and some can choose not to hear you,” Marcus told the lawmakers. “And we did the best we could in this situation.”
Marcus, the daughter of former Democratic State Chairman Ed Marcus, was one of 16 of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s judicial nominees scheduled to testify at Friday’s hearing. The committee was expected to vote on the nominees later in the day, the first hurdle in the confirmation process.
Judiciary Committee members, mostly the Republicans, questioned Shelley Marcus at length about her involvement in the gifting tables case. Marcus had testified last month at the trial of two Guilford women, saying she never told members of the pyramid scheme their activities were legal. Her statements contradicted those made by other witnesses who said Marcus and her father told the members their activities were legal.
The women, Donna Bello and Jill Platt, were convicted Feb. 20 of charges including wire fraud and filing false tax returns. They’ve yet to be sentenced.
Prosecutors said the scheme involved new participants giving $5,000 to high-ranking club members and recruiting new members with the promise of earning $4,000.
Marcus said she met with a total of 21 women, starting in 2009, after they were notified of a civil investigation by then-state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal’s office. Marcus said her dealings with the women involved that probe and how best to address it.
“It was our strong– and more than strong– our vehement recommendation, enter into a cease and desist order, that this activity stop and that we go ahead and negotiate a resolution,” she said, adding how “for a number of people, we were successful in doing that.”
Rep. Rosa Rebimbas, R-Naugatuck, said lawmakers don’t enjoy peppering judicial nominees with tough questions but felt it was warranted in this type of case. Questions were also raised about a lawsuit pending against her father’s law firm, where she said she’s not a partner.
Marcus told lawmakers there have been “glaring inaccuracies” reported about her involvement with the case. For example, she denied allegations that she rewrote the guidelines for the club.
Marcus also tried to assure lawmakers that she did not attempt to keep her role in the case under wraps, acknowledging she referenced the matter in her application to the Judicial Review Board as an example of her experience as a lawyer and did not consider the fact it would become a controversy with her nomination. Last month, Malloy told reporters he had no knowledge of her role in the gifting tables case when he nominated her.
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