NEW HAVEN — Turning informant earned Harry Ray Soucy a six-month stint in a halfway house instead of the stiffer prison term that the retired prison guard had feared.
A federal prosecutor on Monday described Soucy as the architect of a conspiracy to bribe former House Speaker Christopher Donovan and top campaign aides with illegal contributions to Donovan’s 2012 congressional campaign.
Soucy cooked up the scheme to use straw donors to hide contributions that came from a group of tobacco shop owners who wanted to block state legislation to regulate the lucrative roll-your-own cigarette trade.
It was largely due to his extraordinary and timely cooperation with the FBI that Judge Janet Bond Arterton decided to send the Naugatuck man to a halfway house instead of a federal penitentiary.
Federal prosecutors at Soucy’s sentencing Monday morning in U.S. District Court called Soucy’s help critical in building criminal cases against others in the illegal plot. Without him, some of the others might have gotten away.
Arterton sentenced Soucy to three years of supervised release, but she ordered him confined to a halfway house for the first six months. He must also pay a $5,000 fine.
This was the lightest sentence that Arterton has handed down in the case. She said she meant to send a message to others entangled in public corruption that there is a way out through cooperation.
Soucy started cooperating on April 25, 2012, when FBI agents confronted him nearly six months after he first advised some tobacco shop owners to make contributions in other people’s names to Donovan’s campaign in the 5th Congressional District. The contributions were aimed at winning the speaker’s help in killing legislation to regulate and tax roll-your-own cigarettes.
By then, Soucy was deeply involved. He had arranged meetings, continued to advise the shop owners and delivered bogus checks. His transition from conspirator to FBI informant was seamless, Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Glover said.
“He was the architect. He orchestrated it. He saw it through all the way until April 25, 2012, and, on April 25, Mr. Soucy was confronted by federal agents here in New Haven, and he immediately admitted what he was doing,” he said.
Glover said Soucy continued what he had been doing — only he was working on behalf of the government. He even targeted Donovan after he started cooperating. Donovan was not accused of any wrongdoing.
Soucy’s cooperation helped lead to the indictment and conviction of seven others in the illegal fundraising and bribery conspiracy, including Donovan’s campaign manager and finance director.
Soucy got involved in the plot when a friend and former correction officer called him to a meeting of tobacco shop owners in Waterbury in early November 2011. The shop owners sought Soucy out because of his political ties to Donovan, and he immediately put his connections to work.
Soucy told Arterton that he soon learned the criminal intentions of the shop owners and he went along with them, even though he knew what they all were doing was illegal and immoral.
“I’m not making any excuses for my conduct,” he said.
Defense attorney Steven Rasile sought a sentence of home confinement, arguing the last 19 months have been akin to a prison sentence for Soucy because he has been living in fear of going to prison and being targeted for abuse as a former correction officer.
“This is a cold, hard fact — that Mr. Soucy in jail is a target,” he said.
Arterton took Rasile’s argument into account in fashioning Soucy’s sentence.
“Mr. Soucy has made his own prison, by his corrupt conduct as well as by his cooperation,” she said.
Rasile also argued for leniency because Soucy is sole caretaker for his ailing 80-year-old mother, and because Soucy suffers from serious heart and back problems.
He also asked that the 61-year-old Soucy not be judged solely on what he called his aberrant involvement in this conspiracy. He pointed to his client’s work for charitable causes and efforts to help others.
Still, the judge reacted skeptically when Rasile asserted Soucy did not stand to benefit financially from his involvement in the conspiracy. She said shop owners had offered to cut him in. Rasile replied that offer came after the FBI had infiltrated the conspiracy.