The Jail Bail, Plus: Botti’s Fat Mouth

Who gets the credit for vanquishing Jodi’s Jail? State Rep. Chris Caruso who led the initial opposition? Mayor Bill Finch who joined in when the neighborhood chorus against became ear-splitting, and put city lawyers on alert for a lawsuit? Jodi Rell herself for realizing that the state’s largest city has enough prisons?

Plenty of credit to go around, and hopefully Rell will do something nice for the city before she leaves office. How about turning over the state-owned property on Virginia Avenue to the city for a private sector development?

Statement from Mayor Finch:

I’d like to thank Gov. Rell for her commitment to finding an agreeable solution to the relocation of the DCF facility originally slated for Virginia Ave. I and my staff have been in constant communication with the Governor’s office as we worked together to find an acceptable compromise to this matter. I appreciate Gov. Rell’s open-mindedness and willingness to respond to the concerns of people of the Virginia Ave. neighborhood. I have opposed locating this facility in this residential neighborhood from the beginning. I would also like to congratulate our entire state delegation as well as our local Councilmen Richard Paoletto and Robert Curwen for working in collaboration with me and my staff to get to this point. Most of all I’d like to thank and congratulate the citizens of Bridgeport, particularly those who live in the Virginia Ave. neighborhood for coming together to make their voices heard.

Botti’s Breath

James Botti has a big fat mouth. So says his attorney Willie Dow who knows a little bit about creating doubt in the minds of jurors.

Botti boasts about this, brags about that, but much of it is puffery, according to Dow about client statements captured on court-authorized recorded conversations. The Botti trial in New Haven is intriguing on several levels. The government accuses Botti of greasing Shelton Mayor Mark Lauretti, his childhood bud, in exchange for help on development projects. The government makes these cases stick when the facts persuade jurors of a quid pro quo. You do this for me, I do that for you. The law states this is a must for a bribery conviction. Now here’s the fuzzy part. Lauretti’s not there to defend himself because he hasn’t been charged. Why not? Because Botti wouldn’t fold. If Botti enters a plea and cooperates with the government he becomes the key witness for the prosecution. Instead, he’s on trial, and Lauretti’s nowhere in the courtroom. The feds won a tax conviction of Botti in a prior trial, but he still wouldn’t fold. Maybe a second conviction changes his mind?

The government’s case against Lauretti is thinner without Botti. As Dow told the jury in opening arguments: “While the government claims Mayor Lauretti took bribes, you’ve still got James Botti sitting alone in this courtroom.”

Dow doesn’t dispute Botti did favors (the government call them benefits) for Lauretti such as paying for home improvements, but he says his client wasn’t expecting anything in return. Lauretti, he says, pushed for Botti developments because they were good for the city. That’s what a mayor does, promote good developments, no? It’s a crazy case. Does the government call Lauretti? Why would they, unless they think he’d be dumb enough to perjure himself. It would be shocking if Lauretti doesn’t plead the fifth against self-incrimination, if called to testify.

But would Willie Dow call Lauretti as a defense witness to bolster his claim there was no quid pro quo? If he testifies of course he’ll say there was no funny business, but then he’ll be fair game on cross examination by the government. But what if the government doesn’t secure a conviction of Botti in this case? Makes the case against Lauretti even weaker.

This case has to be eating away at Lauretti. This was the former Barnum Festival ringmaster’s year to run for Congress or governor. Now he’s stuck wondering if he’ll be charged.

How About A New School

State legislative leaders are visiting Harding High School today. Harding has lots of great kids and first-rate principal Carol Birks. Why does Harding have an achievement gap? Could one reason be a crappy building in an archaic learning environment? News release below:


Bridgeport School Tour TOMORROW – Tuesday, March 9, beginning @ 1:30

State lawmakers from the Connecticut General Assembly’s Black & Puerto Rican Caucus, led by State Rep. Jason Bartlett (D-Danbury), State Rep. Don Clemons (D-Bridgeport), and State Sen. Edwin Gomes (D-Bridgeport), will be touring Warren Harding High School in Bridgeport on Tuesday, March 9, to view a normal day of activity at the school as the lawmakers continue their debate over legislation to close the state’s achievement gap between white and minority students.

Last month, the Black & Puerto Rican Caucus introduced a comprehensive legislative proposal on the achievement gap that targets schools in situations similar to Harding High School, which is one of 185 schools currently on the state’s “failing schools” list. The legislation is currently being considered by the Education Committee.

Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch and other members from the city’s legislative delegation have also been invited to attend the tour.

Immediately following the tour, the lawmakers will host a roundtable discussion at the school with students and parents to hear their thoughts about what can be done to close the state’s achievement gap. At the conclusion of the roundtable, the lawmakers will hold a news conference to discuss their legislation and how it would impact schools similar to Harding High School .



  1. At the risk of sounding too egotistical, let’s give some credit to the Bridgeport City Council. It was just a few weeks ago that the City Council unanimously went on record as being opposed to the facility with nearly all 20 council members signing on as sponsors. Part of the resolution required that copies be sent to the members of the state bond commission.
    Word had been that Rep. Denise Merrill, House Majority Leader, had committed her vote to Rell. However I have to believe that when Rep. Merrill saw a resolution signed by all 20 Democratic Council Members representing every section of the city, this candidate for the Democratic nomination for Secretary of State might have had second thoughts.
    Prior to this, the opposition might have been viewed as a few politicians doing a little political posturing. After the council’s action it became apparent that there was strong unified opposition. Or at least that was my mindset when working with council members on drafting this resolution.
    Congrats to the Bridgeport City Council!!!

    1. Bob:

      I do appreciate the effort put forth by the City Council in helping keep this new jail out of Bridgeport. Trying to place this facility on Virginia Avenue was short-sighted and just plain dumb.

      But at the risk of sounding too catty/cynical/etc. where was the City Council when the Juvenile Jail on Housatonic Avenue was built?

      I’ll answer my own question: sitting on their hands.

      Along with other members of the “Stop The Waterfront Jail Coalition” (and the CT Juvenile Justice Alliance), we spoke in front of City Council, asking for the body to pass a non-binding resolution against the building of the jail (much like was done this time around). To a man/woman, the reply I received was “Dave, this is a done deal already.” I was also told that since Joe Ganim had “sold” the property to the State (thank you Paul Pinto), that it was “… out of our hands.”

      Nobody on the City Council had the intestinal fortitude to say “Hey, maybe building another non-taxable building ON WATERFRONT PROPERTY isn’t a good idea.” Frankly, I imagine that since Bob Keeley was part of our coalition, many people turned it into a personality issue.

      So what’s my point? I guess I’m just trying to say don’t pat yourself on the back too hard. It might leave a mark.

  2. Musto should take credit for this!

    Merrill-y she rolls along and takes Finch with her!!!

    How about Finch taking credit for the Congress St. Bridge? This guy thinks he walks on water. He was Paul Timpanelli’s Bucket Boy on this issue against the bridge. He threw Shays underneath the Bridge!

    Congratulations to the Bridgeport City Council!

  3. When you must have the most stubborn, bombastic, occasionally irrational, opponent to something, you seek out State Rep. Caruso. Hell, the guy has an intuitive feel for creating gridlock. He’ll seek you.
    Caruso deserves credit for coalescing opposition to Jodi’s Juvie Jail.
    Finch flinched.
    Musto was on the other side.
    The aldermen were clue-little.
    Then …
    The mayor came to his senses.
    Musto switched sides.
    The aldermen united.
    Bridgeport won.
    Congratulate them all.
    Caruso deserves the credit.

  4. “Bridgeport Now” Tue March 9: guests Charles Brilvitch at 8:10pm and David Barbour at 8:35pm

    Himes made good on his campaign pledge to remove downtown Bridgeport’s big blight eyesore:

    “It’s not just a connection (Congress Street Bridge), it’s a symbol about whether we care about our city.” Hey, what did the bridge connect to anyway?

    Punch up three words on Google:

    Washington Park Revitalization

    In other developments, Ellsworth Park renovation plans are not yet set in stone …

    On today’s program “Bridgeport Now,” we will have architect David Barbour discuss his proposal: The Ellsworth Park Pavilion. This is an alternative to the current plan for building a bathroom and storage area for the Black Rock park.

    In a city named after parks (Park City), it is important to be open to ideas and also be aware of history, such as the Black Rock Historic District. The economic benefits of Historic preservation are often underestimated. Charles Brilvitch will also be on the program to discuss local history including Black Rock ship building and Caleb Brewster.

    By the way, we enjoyed David Walker’s talk yesterday about his book Comeback America and suggest a sequel, Comeback Bridgeport. Finch was in the audience, maybe he could write it. Also last night, the Board of Ed had a hearing. I can’t figure out what Ramos means when he says hiring a separate lawyer for himself (against city charter?) could generate some money for the city. What does he mean? There was a sign in the audience asking one of the BBOE members to resign.

  5. Just got back from my government grant and lo and behold I have to read Bob Walsh congratulating himself and the council for stopping the jail on Virginia Ave.
    I also have to read Finch taking credit for saving our poor dumb asses he also credits our two aldermen. Both of these statements are pure and utter bullshit.
    The council as a whole got involved after Caruso and the citizens of the area came out in force against this jail. Bob, council vote like most others taken by the council was meaningless. You can pat yourself on the back but you guys did squat.
    Mayor Finch, councilmen Paoletto and Curwen all knew about this plan a full year before it was made public and they did nothing in fact they kept this information away from the public. They got involved after Caruso stepped forward and got things done. Then it became I better get involved before Caruso gets all the credit.
    I am not a big Caruso supporter but I do give him credit for stopping this jail and getting the people organized. The rest of these politicians were window dressing.
    We just fought a zone change up here on Huntington Tpk and Evers St and the only politician who helped us was Caruso. We lost the fight but he tried, the rest of the politicians were nowhere to be found.
    Hey Bob great vote by the council on the Jacobs buyout. This was an out-and-out assault on civil service and the council helped lay the groundwork for its demise. Great job.

  6. I must say I agree with you. I was not a Caruso supporter before, but that could change. Political power thrives in a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately atmosphere. Which means people sacrifice doing the right thing to do the what is the in-vogue thing. Caruso always went after the right thing, at least in his mind. He wasn’t afraid of becoming irrelevant by going against the current conventional wisdom. Finch is like a cattail blowing in the wind, all looks no substance. When a politician starts fearing “going against the grain” because he/she will lose power–they should understand they already lost it. People lose trust in fickle politicians who will sway whichever way the wind is blowing. Caruso always stood for something; even if at times what he stood for was a bit narrow, you could trust he would always stand for the same thing. He could be trusted to speak out and he wasn’t afraid to tilt at real windmills and attack problems. You may not always agree with his methods, but you damn sure know what they are. Finch hides behind the political advise of Wood, which is scary because Wood is a horrible political strategist, and his cronies in Hartford whom he pays. He goes after the money not the right thing. You never know if Finch is a friend, using you, or is against you, because he never tells the truth. He knew about the jail and didn’t yell because no one else was making a fuss, or perhaps he really wanted it for its PILOT payment, who knows? He never wanted the Congress Street bridge repaired until he figured out that wanting it would help him get elected as Mayor. I wish Caruso would make peace with certain powers and be open to some friendly advise; it would go along way. The only way I would ever vote for Finch is if he had a come-to-Jesus, born-again moment, got rid of Wood and detrimental holdovers from Fabrizi and opened his office to cooperation instead of hiding behind his bleached white teeth and cocksure charm that completely fades under a microscope.

  7. Welcome back from Pago Pago, TC!
    I’m sure it is government money well spent.
    Any hope that a volcano opens up at 999 Broad Street?

    TC’s Caruso comments are ballpark, I think.
    Johnb rummages around in a cogent way as well. I think he misreads Wood, however. Saying the chief of staff is a horrible political strategist casts aspersions on strategy and politics, and may understate horrible.

    1. Donj Thanks. Crazy? I think not. You may think what I post is crazy because I don’t blindly follow the Democratic talking points. I don’t blindly vote for candidates strictly because they are on the Democratic line. I know you will find this hard to believe but I look at the candidate and what he stands for no matter what party he represents.
      Following the Democratic mantra here in Bridgeport has really worked, hasn’t it?


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