Bounced checks to staff led to Newton investigation

The investigation that led to the arrest Friday of former state Sen. Ernest Newton II of Bridgeport was sparked by a campaign worker's complaint to state elections officials that he had not been paid, according to an arrest affidavit released Monday.

Newton, who is accused of falsifying records to quality for $80,550 in public financing for his campaign, is described in the affidavit as under pressure to hire a staff beyond his means as he headed toward a three-way Democratic primary on Aug. 14.

His campaign treasurer, Loretta Williams, is quoted in the affidavit as telling investigators that she warned Newton the campaign's hiring practices were "crazy" and "out of control."

Newton responded that they "needed an army" to win a primary that was to be the first step in a political comeback after serving 4½ years in prison and federal halfway house. The primary was won by state Rep. Andres Ayala, who also won the general election.

On July 17, the Newton campaign was informed that it had not yet qualified for public financing.

The affidavit by an inspector in the chief state's attorney's office describes a candidate under pressure to obtain the public financing for a get-out-the-vote effort, when he fraudulently filed records attesting to the receipt of five $100 contributions.

Without those contributions, Newton was $490 short of the $15,000 in qualifying contributions of no more than $100 each to obtain the public financing under the state's Citizens Election Program.

On Aug. 23, a worker identified only as "A.S." called the State Elections Enforcement Commission to say that Newton was bouncing checks to staff and that Newton asked him and others sign false contribution forms.

"A.S." and four other workers gave sworn statements to investigators that Newton personally asked them to sign contribution cards. At least one worker said she thought the form was necessary to be paid.

Newton, 56, was charged with first-degree larceny, five counts of illegal campaign practices and one count of tampering with a witness.

The tampering charge was prompted by one of the campaign workers' telling investigators that Newton urged her not to talk to them.

Newton has not returned calls for comment, but his lawyer, Darnell Crosland, denies any wrongdoing.

He questioned if the officials were trying to discourage contributions.

"In Ernie's case, they were extra vigilant," Crosland said Saturday.

In 2005, Newton resigned after pleading guilty in federal court to bribery, tax evasion and mail fraud. He was sentenced in 2006 to five years in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release, during which time "the defendant shall not commit another federal, state or local offense."

 

Related: Arrest affidavit

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