The Hartford Courant’s Ed Mahony breaks new ground behind former Mayor Joe Ganim’s early release from the joint and prosecutors’ efforts to deny his motion for early termination of probation. Check out Mahony’s Sunday article:
In an advertisement for his new business–counseling soon-to-be-imprisoned white-collar criminals–former Bridgeport mayor Joseph P. Ganim says what every convict wants to hear: There are programs hidden in the federal prison bureaucracy that can get you out early.
Ganim knows. He found one.
After he was sentenced to nine years for collecting hundreds of thousands of dollars in payoffs, Ganim convinced prison administrators he had a substance abuse problem. That got him into a prison drug rehabilitation program. The reward for completing the program was a sentence reduction. He was out of custody in seven years.
He explains on the Internet site for his business, The Federal Prison Consultant (www.fpcteam.com):
“I have vast and very unique knowledge and expertise of all matters related to the U.S. Federal prison system. … I have personal knowledge and experience with the Federal Bureau of Prison’s Residential Drug Program (R.D.A.P) along with the incentive of up to 1 year reduction in your sentence for successful completion.”
The claim of substance dependency that led to Ganim’s early release came almost on the eve of his incarceration and stunned the prosecutors and investigators who thought they knew–after months of investigation, surveillance, wiretapping and prosecution–about all there was to known about the mayor. No evidence of substance abuse had surfaced, and Ganim denied any.
Years later and still skeptical, prosecutors now are turning the tables on Ganim, using his last-minute claim of substance dependence to block his latest legal gambit. Having reduced his prison sentence, the always-defiant ex-mayor now is trying to cut short his supervised release–in his case a three-year probationary period during which he must submit to post-prison supervision by the federal court.
If Ganim prevails, he will be able to devote himself to rehabilitation, free from federal scrutiny for the first time in more than a decade. He has begun an effort to win reinstatement of his right to practice law. And he is mentioned regularly in political conversations.
When he was indicted on Halloween in 2001, Ganim was the mayor who pulled the state’s largest city from the brink of collapse and a strong Democratic contender for governor. After 50 prosecution witnesses testified against him at trial, he was the mayor who arranged for bribes to be delivered as luxury goods–investment quality wine, hand-tailored clothing, even building materials for a new house.
He was back in the news less than a year after his release–but for giving money away, specifically $1,000 from a charity he founded to a church group that helps children. He claims in court papers to have distributed about $7,000 in charitable donations and about $6,000 more in scholarships, although the money came from his family’s law firm and other donors.
He has rejoined the regulars at Testo’s Ristorante in Bridgeport who talk politics with the owner, Bridgeport Democratic Town Chairman Mario Testa. In spite of Ganim’s enforced absence from local politics, he led a poll commissioned last summer by the influential website Only in Bridgeport–operated, incidentally, by his former friend and co-defendant Leonard Grimaldi–when matched in a hypothetical head-to-head contest for mayor against incumbent Bill Finch. Ganim’s lead in the poll increased when the field of candidates widened.
Finch was re-elected last week while Ganim watched from the sidelines.
Even though Ganim is once again a topic of political conversation in Bridgeport, those who know him well won’t talk about his case, at least in public. The U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to comment, as did Ganim, who said he has been advised not to discuss pending legal matters.
But information provided by other sources reveals, for the first time publicly, details of how Ganim’s early release was arranged.
His admission to the drug program was based largely on a letter from a psychiatrist who examined him in August 2003–after Ganim was sentenced, but before he reported to prison. At the same time, Ganim tested positive on a test for drug use, according to sources with knowledge of the matter.
Even during the weeks immediately before he was sentenced on July 1, 2003, Ganim denied ever using illegal drugs or controlled substances. He said he drank occasionally. No one doubted him.
Ganim could have asked U.S. District Judge Janet Bond Arterton to recommend that he be admitted to the prison drug program when she sentenced him, something criminal defendants with substance abuse problems often do. He did not.
Prosecutors and probation officers in Connecticut did not learn of Ganim’s claim of substance abuse and his admission into the drug treatment program until 2009–six years into his nine-year sentence. That was the same year the Bureau of Prisons tightened the rules that were in effect when Ganim was admitted to the drug treatment and early release program. A prison official said the timing of the two events is coincidental.
The change closed a loophole that gave convicted and sentenced criminals a chance to arrange positive drug tests after they were certain they were going to prison. Critics complained that it was easier for inmates to get into the program under the old rules.
Before the loophole was closed, a positive result on a drug test taken any time up to a convict’s prison reporting date could be used to qualify for admission to the sentence-reducing drug program. Since the Bureau of Prisons amended the policy in March 2009, applicants to the program have been required to show they were substance abusers during the year before they were arrested.
Singing His Praises
To support his request for an early end to his three years of supervised release, Ganim argues that he should be given credit for an outstanding prison record. His motion contains more than 250 pages of supporting documents, including more than two dozen letters from other inmates.
“As a former Township Administrator sentenced for one count of mail fraud, Mr. Ganim and I, immediately, recognized a common ground to begin our relationship,” wrote Joseph Auriemma, convicted of taking $35,000 in home improvements from a municipal contractor while he was administrator of North Bergen, N.J.
Jeffrey Gold, convicted of taking millions of dollars in kickbacks when he ran a New York real estate management company, wrote that he appreciated Ganim’s fitness advice. (When Ganim was mayor, one of the illegal gifts he took was a $2,000 piece of home exercise equipment.)
“I first came in contact with him in our recreation room when I was trying to get myself in better shape, having left myself ‘fall apart’ over the past 35 years,” Gold wrote. “With his help, I was able to lose enough weight that resulted in a positive way by reducing my blood sugar count.”
Robert Mauri, sentenced for misappropriating more than $3 million as a director of a Wall Street investment bank, said he found a career counseling program Ganim ran for inmates to be of great value.
“I will add that it was very informative and helpful in how I may approach the job market when I leave here,” Mauri wrote.
Ganim also documents in his motion, among other things, meritorious citations for volunteerism in prison. He designed and ran a recycling program. He helped design and set up a law library for inmates. He led classes on a variety of subjects for inmates and counseled at-risk youths. He provides specifics of his community service and charitable giving since his release and points out that he promptly paid $325,000 in fines, forfeitures and restitution.
He said he has worked as a paralegal for a law firm in New Haven and will donate “over 1,800 hours” of free legal work if he is allowed by the state bar to regain his license to practice law.
Drug Treatment Redux?
Prosecutors make two points in opposition.
Good behavior, they argue, is expected of prisoners and Ganim should not be given consideration for doing what was expected of him. More significantly, they oppose Ganim on grounds related to his admission to the prison drug program.
In October 2009, after learning that Ganim had been admitted to a drug treatment program in prison that, incidentally, qualified him for early release, the probation office arranged to have a new condition added to the terms of his supervised release: a requirement that he continue substance abuse treatment after prison.
The new condition said, “The defendant shall participate in a program approved by the Probation Office for inpatient or outpatient substance abuse treatment and testing. The defendant shall pay all or a portion of the costs associated with treatment based on the defendant’s ability to pay as determined by the probation officer.”
Federal prosecutors now say there have seen nothing to demonstrate that Ganim has complied. It would be a mistake, the prosecutors argue, to reward Ganim with early termination of his supervised release if he has ignored one of its conditions.
Prosecutors wrote in their motion:
“The Government objects to the defendant’s motion to terminate supervised release because the defendant has not established any new and compelling circumstances that would justify a modification to the terms of his sentence and, perhaps more importantly, has failed to demonstrate he is even participating in a program approved by the Probation Office for inpatient or outpatient substance abuse treatment and testing–one of the conditions of his supervised release.”
Arterton has not indicated when she will rule on Ganim’s motion.