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UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT DISTRICT OF CONNECTICUT UNITED STATES OF AMERICA v. JOSHUA NASSI : : : September 9, 2013 3:12CR157 (JBA)
GOVERNMENT’S MEMORANDUM IN AID OF SENTENCING The Court has scheduled sentencing in this matter for September 19, 2013. The Government respectfully submits that a term of imprisonment exceeding 24 months, but within the agreed upon guideline range, is appropriate and necessary in light of the sentencing factors set forth at 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a). I. BACKGROUND From November 2011 through May 2012, Joshua Nassi (the “defendant” or “Mr. Nassi”), the Campaign Manager for the Chris Donovan for Congress Campaign (the “Campaign”), helped lead a corrupt endeavor to trade promises of specific legislative action for campaign contributions. Prior to becoming Campaign
Manager, Mr. Nassi served as counsel and chief of staff to Mr. Donovan, who was the Speaker of the Connecticut House of Representatives. In that capacity and then later as Campaign Manager, Mr. Nassi had substantial influence on all aspects of Mr. Donovan’s legislative and political agendas. Mr. Nassi was therefore perfectly positioned to leverage Mr. Donovan’s power as Speaker to attract financial contributions to his Campaign. To gain an edge in the high stakes congressional campaign, Mr. Nassi willingly engaged in the unseemly business of trading
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influence for cash.
The most egregious example of this was Mr. Nassi’s active
participation in a plan to use conduit contributors to conceal from the voting public and the Federal Election Commission (the “FEC”) the fact that Roll-Your-Own (“RYO”) smoke shop owners were bankrolling $27,500 in contributions for the express purpose of defeating legislation that would have subjected their businesses to higher taxes and licensing fees (the “RYO Legislation”). In this manner, the defendant and his co-conspirators struck at the principles of transparency and fairness upon which our electoral and political processes rely. The Superseding Indictment charged Mr. Nassi with (1) conspiracy to cause the submission of false statements to the FEC and to defraud the United States, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371; (2) causing false statements to the FEC, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1001; and (3) accepting contributions in the name of another, in violation of 2 U.S.C. §§ 437g(d)(1)(D)(i) and 441f. On April 12, 2013, Mr. Nassi pleaded guilty to Count One of the Superseding Indictment, charging him with conspiracy to cause the submission of false statements to the FEC and to defraud the United States, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371. II. DISCUSSION A. The Pre-Sentence Report, dated August 30, 2013 (“PSR”) 1. The Offense Conduct & The Defendant’s Objections
The PSR accurately sets forth the defendant’s offense conduct at ¶¶ 7 – 88. To the extent those paragraphs do not conflict with the evidence presented at the
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trial of co-defendant Robert Braddock, the Government requests that the Court adopt ¶¶ 7 – 88 as its findings of fact. The only factual objection raised by Mr. Nassi involves ¶ 19 of the PSR, which describes a conversation he had with Mr. Soucy on November 15, 2011. At trial, Mr. Soucy testified that, prior to a November 15th fundraising event, he spoke with Mr. Nassi concerning the fact that he and the RYO smoke shop owners intended to deliver conduit contributions to the Campaign. According to Mr. Soucy, Mr. Nassi advised him that he (Soucy) would be able to speak freely about his intentions with Mr. Braddock that evening. As a result, on the evening of
November 15th, Mr. Soucy advised Mr. Braddock that the names of the RYO smoke shop owners were not on the checks even though the money was coming from them. Mr. Nassi denies that he had any conversation with Mr. Soucy on November 15, 2011 concerning the conduit nature of the contributions collected by Mr. Soucy. The Government respectfully submits that the Court need not resolve this objection to calculate Mr. Nassi’s guideline range or to consider fully the section 3553(a) factors. Mr. Nassi also raises a general objection to the PSR insofar as its summary of offense conduct conflicts with his submission to the Probation Office. For the most part, Mr. Nassi’s version of his offense does not conflict with the facts set forth in the PSR. It appears that the primary purpose of his submission is to provide the Court with a context for understanding his conduct. In this regard, Mr. Nassi’s submission does not raise specific factual objections requiring resolution by the Court.
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The Guideline Calculation
The PSR calculates Mr. Nassi’s base offense level under U.S.S.G. § 2C1.1 because he was convicted of conspiring to cause false statements to the FEC and to defraud the United States. See U.S.S.G., Appendix A – Statutory Index; U.S.S.G. § 2C1.1, Commentary (listing conspiracy to defraud by interference with
governmental function as an applicable offense). Under U.S.S.G. § 2C1.1(a)(2), the base offense level is 12. See PSR ¶ 94. The PSR properly notes that the offense involved payments to a public official or others acting with a public official, and therefore, under § 2B1.1, the offense level is increased based on the aggregate value of the payments. Because it was reasonably foreseeable to Mr. Nassi that the
scheme involved $27,500 in illegal conduit contributions, four levels are added under § 2B1.1(b)(1)(C). See PSR ¶ 95. Four levels are then added under §
2C1.1(b)(3) because the offense involved an elected public official. See PSR ¶ 96. The PSR then adds two levels under § 3B1.3 because, according to the PSR, the defendant abused a position of public and private trust. See PSR ¶ 98. After three levels are subtracted for acceptance of responsibility under § 3E1.1, the PSR arrives at a total offense level of 19 and a Criminal History Category I, resulting in a sentencing range of 30 to 37 months imprisonment. See PSR ¶¶ 104, 159. a. The Defendant’s Objections to the Guideline Calculation i. The public official enhancement under U.S.S.G. § 2C1.1(b)(3)
In the plea agreement, the defendant reserved his right to contest this adjustment, and objected to its inclusion in the first disclosure of the PSR.
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However, the defendant has advised the Government that he will not persist in his objection and concedes that there is a sufficient factual basis to support the adjustment. Therefore, the defendant agrees that the advisory guideline range is 24 to 30 months imprisonment. For its part, the Government agrees with the PSR, and asks the Court to apply this adjustment as it has in connection with the other sentencing proceedings in this case. ii. The abuse of a position of trust enhancement under U.S.S.G. § 3B1.3
The PSR includes a two-level adjustment under § 3B1.3 because, according to the PSR, Mr. Nassi abused a position of public or private trust. The PSR properly notes that the parties did not include this adjustment in the plea agreement’s guideline stipulation, see PSR ¶ 170, and the Government is not seeking its application at sentencing. B. The Sentencing Factors
As this Court is well aware, a sentencing judge is required to calculate the guidelines range, including any departures, consider the guidelines range along with the other § 3553(a) factors, and impose a reasonable sentence. See United States v. Fernandez, 443 F.3d 19, 26 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 127 S. Ct. 192 (2006); United States v. Crosby, 397 F.3d 103, 113 (2d Cir. 2005). The § 3553(a) factors include: (1) the nature and circumstances of the offense and history and characteristics of the defendant; (2) the need for the sentence to serve various goals of the criminal justice system, including (a) to reflect the seriousness of the offense, to promote respect for the law, and to provide just punishment, (b) to accomplish
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specific and general deterrence, (c) to protect the public from the defendant, and (d) to provide the defendant with needed educational or vocational training, medical care, or other correctional treatment in the most effective manner; (3) the kinds of sentences available; (4) the sentencing range set forth in the guidelines; (5) policy statements issued by the Sentencing Commission; (6) the need to avoid unwarranted sentencing disparities; and (7) the need to provide restitution to victims. See 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a). 1. The Nature and Circumstances of the Offense & the Need for the Sentence to Reflect the Seriousness of the Offense
Crimes against our democratic institutions and processes are among the most serious crimes prosecuted by the United States government. These crimes breed skepticism, drown out the average citizen’s say in his or her government and threaten to upset the public’s consent upon which our democratic system rests. In this case, Mr. Nassi and his co-conspirators orchestrated a scheme to trade promises of official legislative action for campaign contributions and to conceal that corrupt scheme from the citizens of Connecticut, the voters of the Fifth District and the FEC by disguising the origin of the contributions. Keeping the public in the dark was very much an essential component of the scheme because nobody stood to lose more from the failure of the RYO Legislation than the citizens of Connecticut. According to the Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Revenue Services, Louis Bucari, the failure of the RYO Legislation could very well have resulted in the loss of over $100 million in funding under the Master Settlement Agreement between the State of Connecticut and cigarette manufacturers. In a very real sense,
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then, this hidden arrangement to give one politician campaign funds in exchange for assurances that a handful of smoke shop owners could continue to exploit a tax loophole, threatened to deprive the people of Connecticut of $100 million in revenue at a time when the state’s fiscal condition was precarious. But, the conspirators sought to deprive the citizens of Connecticut of more than revenue; their actions deprived the people of this State of their right to make informed decisions concerning matters of public policy and their exercise of that foundational right – the right to vote. While all the facts of this criminal conspiracy need not be repeated here, several features of the defendant’s conduct are important to note. First, Mr. Nassi was a lynchpin of this conspiracy. Only Mr. Nassi had direct access to Mr. Donovan and his legislative staff. By virtue of that access, Mr. Nassi was able to provide inside information to Mr. Soucy about the status of the RYO Legislation and their joint effort to defeat it. Only Mr. Nassi had the credibility necessary to assure Soucy that the RYO smoke shop owners would get what they were paying for. And, only Mr. Nassi could arrange for Mr. Soucy to secure a commitment from Mr. Donovan himself that he was working against the RYO Legislation, see GX 58, which he later confirmed when he told Mr. Soucy, “I took care of you, didn’t I.” See GX 66. In short, without Mr. Nassi’s willingness to trade access, influence and official action for campaign contributions, this conspiracy would have had no reason to exist. Mr. Nassi’s offense is made more serious by the fact that, after initially
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assuming a cooperative posture with investigators, Mr. Nassi took steps that were deliberately designed to impede the investigation. See PSR ¶¶ 86-87. Mr. Nassi, to his credit, acknowledges the seriousness of his conduct, but asks the Court to believe that, ultimately, his scheming had little actual effect on the RYO Legislation. While he recognizes that the RYO Legislation may have been put at risk by his conduct, Mr. Nassi maintains that he did not, directly or through others, take affirmative action to stop the RYO Legislation. The evidence shows otherwise. It is undisputed that, on May 2, 2012, Mr. Donovan contacted Mr. Soucy at Mr. Nassi’s request. The recording of that call makes plain that Mr. Donovan understood from Mr. Nassi that Mr. Soucy was seeking to secure his commitment to defeat the RYO Legislation in exchange for campaign contributions. See GX 58. Mr. Soucy asked Mr. Donovan if he could tell the RYO Investors that the bill was “dead,” because, if so, the RYO Investors would “take care” of Mr. Donovan. Id. Although Mr. Donovan would not tell Mr. Soucy that the RYO Legislation was “dead,” he said, “I’m working on it. It’s something I care about. I haven’t heard anything about it, let me just put it that way.” Id. Mr. Donovan then said that he understood where the “[RYO Investors] are coming from . . . and I’m working for it.” Id. Although the RYO Legislation had been placed on the Senate Calendar the preceding day, it was never called for a vote. 1 See GX 54. Seven days later the session ended. And, twelve days later, Mr. Nassi arranged a meeting between Mr.
Mr. Nassi is correct that the PSR does not include specific information concerning the mechanics by which the RYO Legislation was not called for a vote in the Senate. Mr. Nassi also correctly points out that there were legitimate reasons why individual legislators may have opposed the RYO Legislation. Ultimately, the issue of whether Mr. Nassi and others were responsible for defeating the RYO Legislation is not before the Court. What the evidence does establish is that Mr. Nassi on his own and through others did, in fact, take meaningful affirmative actions to bring that result about.
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Donovan and Mr. Soucy so that Mr. Soucy could thank Mr. Donovan for opposing the RYO Legislation and deliver the final $10,000 in contributions. See GX 64. At that meeting on May 14, 2012, Mr. Donovan informed Mr. Soucy that he “took care of” Soucy, and then walked away when Mr. Soucy articulated the explicit nature of the arrangement. See GX 66. Mr. Donovan denied that he “kill[ed] the bill,” but acknowledged that he had “worked the legislative side.” GX 66. Mr. Soucy then immediately delivered the promised $10,000 to Mr. Nassi. Id. Mr. Nassi also
attempted to prevent the Connecticut General Assembly from considering the RYO Legislation during the Special Session. In fact, Mr. Donovan’s chief of staff and Mr. Nassi strategized about how they could eliminate the RYO Legislation from the package of issues that would be considered. See PSR § 84. And, in conducting those negotiations, Mr. Donovan’s chief of staff stated, at Nassi’s request, that the Speaker’s Office was opposed to including the RYO Legislation in the special session package. 2 See PSR ¶ 84. There can be little doubt that Mr. Nassi took affirmative actions on his own and through others to stop the RYO Legislation. The essence of Mr. Nassi’s
criminal conduct, however, was the corrupt agreement itself - an agreement that casually sacrificed the needs and the rights of average citizens in favor of the conspirators’ personal greed and political ambitions. In sum, this conspiracy was an offense against the citizens of Connecticut and an affront to our most fundamental democratic principles.
After this investigation became public, a version of the RYO Legislation passed during the special session.
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The History and Characteristics of the Defendant
There is very little in Mr. Nassi’s history and characteristics that suggests he would become so deeply involved in a corrupt “pay-to-play” conspiracy. Mr. Nassi
grew up in relatively comfortable circumstances that afforded him many opportunities. During his young adulthood, Mr. Nassi evolved from an ambivalent and underachieving high school student to a highly motivated and politically conscious attorney. Mr. Nassi was a devoted political activist, and demonstrated a willingness to do the kind of “door-to-door,” grinding work that is often critical to achieving political change. After law school, Mr. Nassi joined Mr. Donovan’s staff and soon became his most trusted political aide and, later, his campaign manager. At the time of this offense, Mr. Nassi was at the height of his influence. He was an effective and savvy political operative. He had every reason to reject the corrupt proposals made by Mr. Soucy, but he did not reject them. He embraced them. Mr. Nassi seized upon the political advantages of entering a corrupt agreement with Mr. Soucy, and those personal political considerations mattered above all else. In short, after seven years in politics, Mr. Nassi pursued a path of illegal, political expediency over principles of transparency and fair play. 3. Deterrence and Respect for Law
The Government respectfully submits that general deterrence is of paramount importance in this case. One of the troubling features of this offense was the casual and brazen manner with which the conspirators pursued their scheme. Mr. Nassi was one of the most visible and influential political operatives in
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the Connecticut General Assembly. It is extremely troubling that someone of his stature would so easily engage in corrupt behavior and enlist other, highly placed individuals to assist him. In this context, the Government submits that there is an urgent need for the Court’s sentence to announce clearly to those in positions of trust within campaigns and government that this type of behavior is not only illegal, but intolerable. That message has two important audiences. First, it
appears that some individuals in this state continue to believe that the political or material benefits of corruption outweigh the risks of detection and incarceration. For those individuals, notions of personal integrity and responsible citizenship may not be sufficiently compelling to dissuade them from acting corruptly. The
Government respectfully submits that the Court’s sentence should aim to do so. See United States v. Watkins, 691 F.3d 841, 853 (6th Cir. 2012) (affirming upward departure in corruption prosecution due to the “ease with which [the defendant] accepted the bribe and then lied about it under oath,” and to accomplish general deterrence where there was a widespread corruption problem facing the county and surrounding areas). Second, the Court’s sentence should address the flagging faith that many citizens seem to have in a political system that is supposed to be transparent and responsive to them. By imposing a term of incarceration within the guideline range, the Court will assure the public that their institutions are capable of policing and sanctioning conduct that seeks to corrupt their system of self-government and exclude them from the political process. In this manner, the
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Court’s sentence will not only have the appropriate deterrent effect, but will promote much needed respect for law and will constitute just punishment. 4. Unwarranted Sentencing Disparities
A sentence within the agreed upon guideline range will appropriately address Mr. Nassi’s culpability relative to other defendants in this case. This Court has already sentenced several of Mr. Nassi’s co-defendants. Benjamin Hogan, an RYO smoke shop owner who played an important but limited role in the conspiracy, was sentenced to 21 months imprisonment. David Moffa, a politically astute, former union president who introduced Mr. Soucy to the other conspirators, was sentenced to 24 months imprisonment. George Tirado, an RYO smoke shop owner and former police detective who had a large financial stake in the conspiracy and who repeatedly minimized his conduct at sentencing, was sentenced to 26 months imprisonment. Finally, Robert Braddock, the Finance Director of the Campaign who was convicted at trial and played a critical role in concealing the origin of the contributions from the FEC, was sentenced to 38 months imprisonment. In the Government’s view, Mr. Nassi’s conduct was more serious, significant and harmful than Mr. Hogan’s and Mr. Moffa’s conduct. It is, therefore, appropriate for this Court to sentence him to a prison term greater than 24 months. It is also true that, during the critical months of April and May 2012, Mr. Nassi was more deeply involved in the day-to-day workings of the conspiracy than Mr. Tirado. That said, at sentencing, Mr. Tirado flatly refused to acknowledge the scope of his conduct, whereas Mr. Nassi’s remorse appears genuine and his appreciation for the harm
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wrought by this conspiracy seems sincere. Finally, although Mr. Nassi and Mr. Braddock engaged in similar conduct, their postures at sentencing are quite different. Mr. Braddock proceeded to trial and was convicted of three felony
offenses. Mr. Braddock continued to contest his guilt at sentencing, and refused to make any statement to the Court concerning his conduct. The Court sentenced Mr. Braddock to 38 months imprisonment, which was three months below the applicable guideline range. Mr. Braddock’s guideline range was higher than his codefendants not because he went to trial, but because the guidelines recognize that true acceptance of responsibility is a mitigating factor at sentencing and defendants who demonstrate that acceptance should receive a benefit. Mr. Nassi’s acceptance of responsibility is appropriately reflected in his guideline range. III. CONCLUSION For the foregoing reasons, the Government respectfully submits that a sentence greater than 24 months, but within the agreed upon guideline range, is appropriate and necessary in light of the sentencing factors set forth at 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a). Respectfully submitted, DEIRDRE M. DALY ACTING UNITED STATES ATTORNEY /s/ Christopher M. Mattei CHRISTOPHER M. MATTEI ASSISTANT UNITED STATES ATTORNEY 450 MAIN STREET HARTFORD, CT 06103 FEDERAL BAR NO. CT27500 Tel.: (860) 947-1101
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Christopher.Mattei@usdoj.gov ERIC J. GLOVER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY
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CERTIFICATION I hereby certify that on September 9, 2013, a copy of the foregoing was filed electronically and served by mail on anyone unable to accept electronic filing. Notice of this filing will be sent by e-mail to all parties by operation of the Court’s electronic filing system or by mail to anyone unable to accept electronic filing as indicated on the Notice of Electronic Filing. Parties may access this filing through the Court’s CM/ECF System.
/s/ Christopher M. Mattei ASSISTANT UNITED STATES ATTORNEY
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