As ex-colleagues are sworn in, Gaffey pleads guilty

As his former colleagues were sworn in down the street, state Sen. Thomas P. Gaffey pleaded guilty to six larceny charges and received a six-month suspended sentence. He also officially resigned from office Wednesday.

The charges stem from allegations that the eight-term legislator double-billed the legislature and his political action committee for travel expenses totaling about $2,800. The expenses covered the cost of his girlfriend attending legislative conferences with him.

Gaffey, 51, uttered the word “guilty” softly six times in Hartford Superior Court.

As part of a plea agreement, Judge Julia Dewey sentenced him to one month in prison for each count of sixth-degree larceny. The sentence will be suspended, but Gaffey must perform 100 hours of community service.

Dewey said she considered Gaffey’s agreement to plead guilty a mitigating factor. She also cited the fact that he had no previous criminal record, resigned from office voluntarily, suffered “a public humiliation,” and endured a significant family loss. Gaffey’s 16-year-old son committed suicide in 2009.

But Dewey said she could not ignore the effects of his crimes. “It’s not a victimless crime,” she said.

“You did major damage to the faith of your constituents and to the legislature,” she said. “People don’t trust politicians.”

Dewey said she wondered why Gaffey would put himself through so much public humiliation for what she called “minimal compensation.”

In brief remarks, Gaffey did not answer the question. But he apologized to the court, his family, community, district and the state.

“I take full responsibility for these mistakes,” he said. “I loved serving in the state Senate for 16 years.”

Gaffey, who served as co-chairman of the Education Committee, said he particularly loved working to improve the academic performance of the state’s children.

“I’m going to miss that dearly,” he said. He declined to comment after the hearing.

Gaffey won re-election in November but submitted a letter of resignation Wednesday, rather than take the oath of office. A special election will be held to fill his seat. The district includes Meriden, Middlefield, and parts of Middletown and Cheshire.