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Alibozek Arguing For Light Sentence
January 5, 2007
By EDMUND H. MAHONY, Hartford Courant Staff Writer
The former top state aide who blew the whistle on corruption in the Rowland administration is asking to be spared a prison sentence, arguing among other things that he has been reduced to a mental wreck by guilt and continuing harassment by one of the influential defendants against whom he agreed to cooperate.
Under federal guidelines, Lawrence E. Alibozek, former Gov. John G. Rowland's former deputy chief of staff, could face 24 to 30 months in prison at his sentencing Monday.
But Alibozek's lawyer filed a legal memo Thursday arguing that probation is more appropriate because without Alibozek's anguished confession, prosecutors never would have convicted Rowland, top aide Peter N. Ellef Sr. and influential construction executive William Tomasso of state contracting corruption.
The investigation leading to the convictions drove Rowland from office in July 2004 and landed him, Ellef and Tomasso in prison not long after.
Despite whether Alibozek, 61, is sent to prison, his sentencing is likely to conclude a four-year corruption investigation and prosecution that began in earnest in 2002 when he was first interviewed by FBI agents. That meeting led to a series of more than 20 interviews in which Alibozek admitted participating with others in a conspiracy to steer tens of millions of dollars in state business to Tomasso in return for payoffs and lavish gifts.
It was later disclosed that Alibozek, apparently wracked by guilt, had withdrawn from the conspiracy and ended his association with Ellef and Tomasso even before he became aware of the existence of the investigation.
In his memo, Alibozek's attorney William Gerace of Hartford lists six reasons why his client should be spared prison, the most compelling of which may be the claims that his cooperation "broke the log jam" and led FBI agents to Ellef and Tomasso, and that the resulting guilt, harassment and notoriety have destroyed both Alibozek's health and his employability.
Gerace says in his memo that federal probation officials have concluded that Alibozek "was once a happy and vivacious person, but is now an emotional wreck who lacks the self-esteem and confidence to pull himself out of his house on a daily basis."
The probation officials, according to Gerace, have said that Alibozek has been diagnosed with "Adjustment Disorder with mixed anxiety and depression" and experiences "Post Traumatic Stress Disorder including hypervigilance related to the continuing reality of harassment of his family." Gerace said he is being treated for the disorders.
Gerace links at least part of what he calls deterioration in Alibozek's mental and physical health to continuing harassment - some of it possibly illegal - by private investigators hired by Tomasso's business. The harassment began, Gerace claims, shortly after Alibozek pleaded guilty in March 2003 to conspiring to solicit and accept corrupt payments and impeding the collection of taxes by the IRS.
Alibozek's cooperation with the FBI became generally known at the time of his guilty plea.
"Mail has been stolen from his home," Gerace said in his memo. "Mr. Alibozek's children have been followed by investigators and had their vehicles `bumper-locked.' Mr. Alibozek and his wife have also been followed by investigators. Members of the community have been interrogated by Tomasso agents, including Mr. Alibozek's son's girlfriend.
"Mr. Alibozek's home has been broken into and his phone has been tapped. A cottage located across the street from Mr. Alibozek was rented by investigators, presumably to conduct surveillance. Two months ago, two vehicles with individuals inside were parked in front of Mr. Alibozek's home for an extended period of time. Federal agents have confirmed that this activity was conducted by individuals hired by the Tomasso Group. Some of these individuals have criminal records. Mr. Alibozek fears that this conduct will continue even after he is sentenced."
Gerace would not elaborate on the claims of harassment. Tomasso's Washington attorney could not be reached. Federal authorities were investigating the alleged harassment as early as October 2004 but have refused to discuss it.
Although federal sentencing guidelines put Alibozek in a 24 to 30 month range, it would not be extraordinary for Senior U.S. District Judge Peter C. Dorsey to impose something less severe based on any of the arguments made by Gerace. Federal prosecutors are expected to file their own memo before sentencing, which could include their recommendations on punishment.
According to Gerace's memo, federal probation officials already have set the stage for a reduction in a report to Dorsey that says, in part, "What differentiates Mr. Alibozek from his co-defendants is the fact that at a point in time prior to any knowledge of a federal investigation, Mr. Alibozek's conscience awoke and he no longer could morally participate in the offense behavior. He washed his hands of the wrongdoings."
In addition, co-defendants Ellef and Tomasso, who refused to cooperate with federal investigators, were sentenced to 30 months in prison by Dorsey in 2006 after ultimately agreeing to plead guilty to corruption charges. Rowland was sentenced to a year and one day in prison in 2005.
Alibozek has admitted to participating in a scheme with Ellef and Tomasso in which Ellef and Alibozek would use their influential positions in the Rowland administration to steer expensive state contracts to Tomasso businesses. In return, Tomasso provided them with gifts, vacations, cash, gold coins and the promise of continuing income after they retired from state service. Tomasso employees did extensive renovation work on a cottage Rowland formerly owned on Bantam Lake in Litchfield.
Information that has previously become public in the corruption case shows that a friendship between Ellef and Tomasso predated Ellef's appointment to the Rowland administration in 1995 as its top economic development officer. Almost immediately afterward, Ellef was pushing for a $5 million loan package for a new Tomasso family business.
The Tomasso-Ellef relationship took off when Rowland named Ellef his co-chief of staff in October 1997. When Alibozek, who had been Ellef's deputy in the economic development agency, balked at joining the governor's office because he would lose his state car, Ellef took the problem to Tomasso. Tomasso, Alibozek told authorities, responded by providing $6,500 in cash through Ellef and another $3,000 directly to Alibozek - a substantial down payment on a new Ford.
In the spring or summer of 1998, Alibozek told authorities, he and Ellef were sitting in a car at the Capitol when Ellef showed him an envelope containing about $3,000 in cash, which he said was from Tomasso. Alibozek told authorities that Ellef instructed him to take half. It was the first of at least $15,000 to $20,000 he and Ellef received over the next few years, Alibozek told authorities.
About the same time, according to an account by Alibozek in previously disclosed prosecution documents, Ellef made Tomasso an offer: "If Tomasso had the stomach for it, [Ellef] would really start pushing for Tomasso companies to get state contracts." After taking a day to think things over, Tomasso reportedly replied, "Push the envelope."
By the summer of 1998, Alibozek said, he and his family were vacationing aboard the Tomasso family boat, the 65-foot Nazzarena. The yacht was made available for free to Alibozek, along with its paid captain and crew member.
In 1999, according to the same documents, Tomasso became so worried by speculation about turn-of-the-millennium banking glitches that he decided to pay his friends in gold.
Contact Edmund H. Mahony at email@example.com