NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) — Former Connecticut House Speaker Chris Donovan was told that business owners were concerned about a tax increase proposal but he didn’t kill the measure, saying he “did what’s right,” according to recordings played Thursday in the trial of a former campaign aide to Donovan.
Authorities say owners of roll-your-own cigarette businesses were worried about a bill proposed last year that would have increased taxes on their product, and a union official has testified that he used money and political connections to kill the legislation.
Robert Braddock, Donovan’s former congressional campaign finance director, is on trial in federal court in New Haven for allegedly being part of a scheme to hide the source of contributions to Donovan’s congressional campaign. He has pleaded not guilty. Prosecutors say tobacco shop owners funneled nearly $28,000 to Donovan’s campaign through straw donors. The bill died in the regular legislative session but passed in a subsequent special session.
Prosecutors played secret audio and video recordings Thursday of brief encounters between Donovan and the union official, Harry Ray Soucy, also a former Department of Correction officer.
Asked by Soucy whether the bill was dead before last year’s regular session ended, Donovan said, “I can’t tell you that right now. I’m working on it,” according to a recording.
According to another recording, Soucy arrived at the 5th Congressional District Democratic nominating convention in May of last year with four checks of $2,500 each, after the legislative session ended. Three were intended for Donovan’s campaign and one for the Connecticut Democratic Party.
According to a video recording from a device worn by Soucy, Donovan said, “I took care of you, didn’t I?”
Soucy told the then-speaker he had “another 10 grand” to give to Donovan’s campaign manager.
Donovan is heard saying, “I didn’t kill the bill. I worked on the legislative side. I did what’s right.”
Donovan walked away, and Soucy later gave the checks to the campaign manager, Joshua Nassi.
Donovan has denied any knowledge of the scheme and has not been charged. A spokeswoman for Donovan, Audrey Honig Geragosian, said during a break in the trial that the then-speaker was upset Soucy approached him at the nominating convention and tried to end the encounter as quickly as possible.
Donovan lost the Democratic nomination for the congressional seat last year to Elizabeth Esty, who went on to win the general election.
In one recording, Soucy is talking with Braddock about money illegally funneled to Braddock’s campaign through third parties, a practice known as straw donations. The recordings give no indication that Donovan knew about the donations. Braddock insists he was collecting money as part of his job and didn’t know the checks were from straw donors.
Braddock’s lawyer, Frank Riccio II, tried to discredit Soucy, who with Nassi are among seven co-defendants in the case who have pleaded guilty and await sentencing. Braddock is the only one to go to trial.
“If you could sit on the stand and tell some lies to limit your jail exposure, would you do that?” he asked.
“No,” Soucy answered.
“Are you an honest man?” Riccio asked.
“Not always,” Soucy replied.
It was his second day on the stand. Prosecutors say they will rest their case Friday.
Riccio said he and Braddock haven’t decided yet whether Braddock will testify in his own defense.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.