The mood outside Hartford Superior Court following Friday’s “split verdict” of the charges against former state Sen. Ernie Newton was described as sort of a half-victory. Newton was acquitted of witness tampering and the jury was deadlocked on the most serious charges of two counts of larceny and some other campaign related activities. However, he was convicted of three felonies connected with campaign finance wrongdoing which, given his prior record, could spell a lengthy prison sentence.
The Hartford Courant reports the latest three felony convictions carry five years in prison. See other details of the case here.
Newton pleaded guilty to felony charges in 2005 relating to a $5,000 bribe. He was hit with a five-year sentence back then and served four and a half years. That prior conviction will play heavily into whatever sentence he may get for these offenses. They may also constitute a violation of his federal probation.
Famed Connecticut defense attorney Hugh Keefe of New Haven—who had no involvement in the Newton case—says these types of political corruption cases have evolved. “Courts and judges are seeing more of them and coming down harder on [the convicted],” Keefe told The Hanging Shad.
Keefe says Newton finds himself in the same boat as former Gov. John Rowland as a two-time offender. Rowland was found guilty last fall in a political finance scheme after pleading guilty ten years ago in case that drove him from office.
Keefe also pointed out that prosecutors are extremely hesitant to offer immunity to government witnesses in these cases. “Juries are saying, ‘the guy might be guilty but the other guys aren’t clean either.’”
Newton will be sentenced March 13.