Galante Admits Violating Election Law

Danbury trash executive James Galante signed a last-minute plea bargain Monday that averted the prospect of a trial for exceeding limits on state campaign contributions - and spared some political figures the potential embarrassment of testifying in an election year.

"There are a lot of people, including some prominent people, who are breathing easier today because Mr. Galante has disposed of this case," Galante lawyer Hugh Keefe said at the conclusion of the plea hearing Monday in state Superior Court.

Keefe declined to elaborate, but political sources said that Galante had created anxiety when his lawyers served subpoenas notifying more than a dozen candidates, lobbyists and donors that they faced the possibility of being grilled as defense witnesses.

Among those receiving subpoenas, the sources said, were Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton, state senator and Republican congressional candidate David Cappiello, ex-state Sen. Louis DeLuca and lobbyists Joseph Walkovich and Patrick Sullivan.

Prosecutors said they could prove that Galante used straw donors in 2002 to exceed contribution limits to political action committees run by Cappiello, DeLuca and Boughton.

The prosecutors said that Galante used friends, employees and associates of employees to deliver about $40,000 in contributions to the committees. Campaign finance laws limit the amount that any one person can give a political action committee to $1,000 a year.

When the news of Galante's contributions first broke about a year ago, Cappiello, DeLuca and Boughton all acknowledged receiving money, but said they were not aware that the contributions had been "bundled" by Galante.

Under the terms of a plea agreement with state and federal prosecutors, Galante was given a one-year sentence to be served concurrently with a racketeering sentence of seven years and three months that he received in federal court earlier this month.

Galante, 55, of New Fairfield, agreed to plead no contest to a single count of violating state election law by making an illegal, $15,000 contribution in 2002 to Cappiello's committee.

Cappiello, a state senator representing Danbury, is the Republican candidate for election to Congress from the state's 5th Congressional District.

State prosecutor Christopher Alexy said in court Monday that Cappiello and Galante first discussed a contribution in the summer of 2002. That fall, Alexy said that Galante gave $15,000 to an employee with instructions to break it into 15 separate $1,000 donations to Cappiello's political action committee.

Alexy said that Cappiello initially did not tell the whole story when questioned by FBI agents about the discussions that led to the contribution. He later clarified the sequence of conversations that resulted in the contribution, Alexy said.

Investigators initially asked Cappiello "a bunch of questions, many of which he did not immediately know the answers to," said his spokesman, Adam Bauer. When he learned more about the donations, he "cooperated fully," Bauer added.

The prosecutors said that donations to the political action committees controlled by DeLuca and Boughton followed roughly the same pattern as those made to Cappiello.