Dan Tepfer of the CT Post provides the latest on Ernie Newton’s arrest.
They were “Ernie’s Army,” campaign workers determined to carry Ernest Newton II into office as the next state senator for the city’s East Side and Stratford.
But the campaign began to fold when Newton bounced paychecks to his workers.
Newton’s failed campaign turned out to be the least of his problems. He is now facing more than 20 years in prison after being charged Friday with first-degree larceny and multiple counts of illegal campaign practices.
“I can’t make no statements,” Newton said Monday night, adding he had not read his arrest warrant affidavit.
The affidavit, released Monday morning, reveals that Newton had an enthusiastic following until he ran out of money. Then it states Newton told his workers they would get their money if they filled out cards claiming they made contributions to his campaign when they hadn’t.
With the addition of the phony campaign contributions, Newton’s campaign exceeded the $15,000 threshold to qualify for an $80,550 state grant through the Citizen’s Election Program.
But when Newton still didn’t pay the workers, they complained to the state Elections Enforcement Commission.
One of Newton’s former campaign workers, whose name was not released, told investigators he was at the campaign office with about 40 other people when he and four others were approached by Newton and asked to step outside.
Once there, Newton told them the campaign was $500 short of the grant threshold and he asked them to sign contribution cards. Newton told the workers no one would ever know, and in return, they would be paid what Newton owed them, the affidavit states.
The campaign workers did as they were told, but were later informed there was no money to pay them.
Another campaign worker told investigators he had been unemployed before taking the job with Newton. At first, the worker said, he thought the card Newton gave him was related to work, perhaps a W-2 form.
A third worker said Newton’s right hand man, Mark Bush, had given her a check for $200, told her to cash it, and then give him back $120.
“I’m not going to jail for anybody,” she told investigators.
Another campaign worker, identified only as a woman with the initials L.R., was initially reluctant to talk to investigators, the affidavit states. Eventually, L.R. admitted she filled out a contribution card, but did not contribute any money to the campaign. When investigators did a background check on her, they learned she had an outstanding arrest warrant and she was immediately taken into custody.
Loretta Williams, Newton’s campaign treasurer and a former city councilwoman, told investigators she had warned Newton he was hiring too many people for his campaign and that his hiring practices were “out of control.” But Newton responded that he needed an army.
Williams recalled being at a rally at Newton’s campaign headquarters in Stratford on July 17, according to the affidavit. It was very loud and she was sitting at her desk when she got a call from Andrew Cascudo of the EEC.
The campaign had fallen $500 short of the grant threshold. One of the campaign workers, she couldn’t recall which one, overheard the conversation and announced it to the crowd. Newton quickly left the room.
Later, Williams said she found $500 sitting on her desk. She didn’t know where it came from, but she deposited it in the campaign bank account and notified the EEC the threshold had been met, the affidavit states.
Investigators also asked Williams if she had previously paid a fine for signing someone else’s name to a candidate’s petitions. Williams said she had paid such a fine and was wrong to sign her stepmother’s name.
The stepmother didn’t recall giving Williams permission to sign her name, but Williams assured investigators the stepmother was mistaken. Despite her claim, Williams paid the $1,500 fine, the affidavit states.