George Tirado, a former Waterbury police detective and co-owner of a roll-your-own smoke shop, was sentenced Wednesday to 26 months in prison for his role in a conspiracy to direct illegal contributions to the congressional campaign of former House Speaker Christopher G. Donovan.

The sentence imposed in New Haven by U.S. District Judge Janet Arterton fell within the U.S. guideline range of 24 to 30 months in prison. She also imposed a fine of $5,000.

Arterton rejected a defense plea to impose a sentence of probation, home confinement and community service for the 36-year-old Tirado, who lives in Wolcott.

The U.S. attorney’s office told Arterton that a prison sentence within the guideline range was necessary to protect the electoral and legislative process from corruption.

“There is a need for the Court’s sentence to make clear this type of behavior is intolerable,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Glover wrote in his sentencing memo.

James Glasser, a former federal prosecutor who represented Tirado, said in a sentencing memo that Tirado deserved consideration for his service as a detective who solved homicides, once nearly being shot while making an arrest. Tirado lost his police job once he pleaded guilty.

“Mr. Tirado received numerous awards for his outstanding police work, including the U.S. Attorney’s Office Award for his contributions to the Project Safe Neighborhoods initiative to reduce gun violence in Connecticut,” Glasser wrote.

Waterbury police officers, including a deputy chief, wrote letters of support to the judge.

“A person’s reputation is built in increments over many years. The letters in support of
Mr. Tirado are remarkable for their number and content,” Glasser wrote. “It is of no small moment that the letters of support recount in detail specific acts of kindness and charity that reach back into Mr. Tirado’s childhood.”

Tirado was one of seven defendants to plead guilty to charges stemming from a conspiracy to direct $27,500 in contributions from smoke-shop owners to Donovan’s campaign to stop legislation imposing taxes and fees on their tax-exempt business.

The source of contributions was hidden by using straw donors.

Donovan’s campaign manager, Josh Nassi, was among those to plead guilty and his campaign finance director, Robert Braddock Jr., was convicted at trial.

Tirado is the third defendant to be sentenced. A fourth, Benjamin Hogan, faces a similar penalty when he is sentenced later Wednesday.

Braddock was sentenced to 38 months in prison. David Moffa, a retired correction officer and union official who played a minor role, was sentenced to 24 months.

Donovan, who was not charged, denied knowledge of the conspiracy, which derailed his campaign for the 5th Congressional District seat last year. He was the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination until the arrests of Nassi and Braddock.

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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