Newton: Legal Problems a “Distraction” from Serious Issues but Experience will Return Him to Legislature

Sounding upbeat and optimistic, former state representative and state senator Ernie Newton of Bridgeport says his he will win back his seat in the House despite what he calls the “distraction” of his legal troubles. Newton is charged with fraudulently obtaining public funds for his 2012 campaign for state Senate and faces three years in prison. In 2005, Newton pleaded guilty and served five years for campaign finance-related felonies and other charges.

“My people know what this is all about,” Newton told The Hanging Shad about the current charges. “They had it out for me. But this has never been criminal matter, it’s a civil case and I can prove in court that that [the charges] aren’t true.” The “my people” comment recalls the quote back in 2005 in which Newton referred to himself as “…the Moses of my people.”

Whatever the outcome, any trial would come after the November elections which brings up all sorts of legal and parliamentary questions. If he is elected (which is likely) and subsequently convicted and sent back to prison, he would be barred from serving until he serves out any sentence and probation. If he wins and then is convicted but not sent to prison, he could serve assuming the House doesn’t vote to expel him. The Shad tried to contact Speaker of the House Brendan Sharkey but he was vacationing and unreachable for comment.

What the House Democratic caucus does with the situation should Newton be convicted but not imprisoned is unknown. When he ran for state Senate in 2012, Senate Democratic leadership actively worked for Newton’s opponent in the primary, Andres Ayala, Jr. who went on to win the seat.

In a strange twist, Superior Court Judge Joan Alexander said last week during a brief hearing that she was not inclined to put Newton back in the pokey, the Connecticut post reported, “…Alexander said…she doesn’t want to sentence [Newton] to another stint behind bars, since the state is not alleging that the funds were used for luxury or personal items.”

Experienced lawyers contacted by The Shad called the judge’s pretrial comments “wildly inappropriate” and at the very least, “unusual.”