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It’s Connecticut’s embarrassment. The laughing stock of New England. The absolute joke of the nation. Convicted Mayor Joe Ganim’s return to the same office he robbed blind is complete. It’s not his redemption story that is troubling as much as it is that he did it without remorse for his actions, an apology coming only after he decided he wanted to return to the scene of the crime. It’s sickening and adds to the cynicism about politics and government.
Ganim’s backstory has been told many times: an up and coming star of the Democratic Party was caught red-handed, up to his chubby little neck in felonies. He was convicted on 16 counts—obviously not an isolated incident but a stunning pattern of criminal activity. Off to the Big House he went for seven years—the longest prison sentence for any Connecticut political crook (and that’s saying something) and among the top ten in the nation (again, quite an accomplishment).
To Ganim’s credit, he pulled the wool over the eyes of the crazy-a** voters of Bridgeport. It seems that the city is always in the news every election cycle and not in a good way. Shaky recounts, ballot shortages, reverse 911 calls; you name it, Bridgeport’s had it. And now this.
Again, I don’t think there is anyone who would begrudge a contrite, remorseful ex-con from doing anything in his or her new life. Everyone deserves a second chance. In fact, that was the name of Gov. Dannel Malloy’s justice reform initiative, “The Second Chance Society.” No one should be tarred forever by mistakes made in the past.
Here the thing: we usually reserve such empathy for those who are sorry for their crimes. Ganim is sorry only because it delayed his continued place in power. The former mayor maintained his innocence for the seven years he was 5-0’d. Only when he was sure he could make a credible run for the scene of the crime, he offered a lame, “I’m truly sorry.”
Here are his exact words at the East End Baptist Church back in January.
That’s it. There was no redemption tour, no widespread series of “I apologize.” Indeed, just a year prior, Ganim’s lawyer made it clear that his client, “…maintains his innocence.”
Ganim had a shot at making it clear he was remorseful for his pattern of shakedowns, extortion, racketeering, and bribe-taking. It was mid-summer of this year on Colin McEnroe’s radio show on WNPR. The incomparable host gave Ganim every chance to clear the air, set the record straight, throw himself on the mercy of the court of public opinion. He failed. He actually said, “Huge mistakes were made.”
Come again? A mistake is when you ignore a traffic ticket, write something nasty about someone out of anger, or open up too much on Facebook (I’ve done them all). Ganim engineered a mind-boggling pattern of corruption and to this day, he isn’t sorry for it.
Then again, it is Bridgeport.