A 34-year-old former smoke-shop manager was sentenced Wednesday to 21 months in prison, the fourth defendant to get prison time in the campaign finance scandal that derailed the 2012 congressional campaign of former House Speaker Christopher G. Donovan.

The sentence imposed by U.S. District Judge Janet B. Arterton on Benjamin Hogan of Southington was the most lenient in the case that produced eight felony convictions and ended the political hopes of Donovan, who was not charged with a crime.

Hogan was indicted in 2012 and pleaded guilty in April to one count of conspiracy to make false statements to the Federal Election Commission and to impede the FEC’s enforcement of federal campaign finance laws.

The eight defendants, including Donovan’s campaign manager and chief fundraiser, hid the source of $27,500 in contributions meant to influence Donovan to kill legislation imposing taxes and fees on the roll-your-own cigarette business.

U.S. sentencing guidelines recommended a sentence of between 24 and 30 months in prison for Hogan, and prosecutors sought a sentence at the bottom of the range. They described him as less culpable than other defendants, but not a minor player.

“Mr. Hogan’s knowledge of and participation in the bribery component of this conspiracy renders his conduct more serious than an average participant in similarly charged conspiracies,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Mattei wrote in his sentencing memo.

Hogan was an investor in the smoke shop, as well as the manager. Prosecutors said he was aware that the goal of the conspiracy was to bribe Donovan.

Hubert Santos, who represented Hogan, described his client as unsophisticated player in the conspiracy who thought he was helping buy access to Donovan, not attempting to bribe him.

Santos points to a campaign contribution that Hogan wrote on his own checking account.

“In short, Mr. Hogan’s demonstration of a complete lack of sophistication in this scheme by tendering a personal check to the campaign illustrates his ignorance of the overall plan to bribe Donovan,” Santos wrote. He added, “No one in his right mind would bribe a public official using a personal check because it creates a paper trail straight to the briber.”

Santos argued that the advisory guideline range for Hogan should have been calculated at 12 to 18 months, but he asked for a sentence of probation.

He described Hogan as a gambler who lived in the back of a pool hall for seven years prior to his arrest, running poker games and take bets. He called him a gambling addict, but the government challenged that assertion, noting he had $75,000 in his checking account last year.

Hogan was one of two defendants sentenced Wednesday: George Tirado, a former Waterbury police detective and smoke shop owner, was sentenced to 26 months.

The others previously sentenced:

  • David Moffa, a former correction officer and union official who introduced some of the conspirators, was sentenced to 24 months.
  • Robert Braddock Jr., who was Donovan’s campaign manager, was sentenced to 38 months.

Mark is the Capitol Bureau Chief and a co-founder of CT Mirror. He is a frequent contributor to WNPR, a former state politics writer for The Hartford Courant and Journal Inquirer, and contributor for The New York Times.

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