The next time members of the Connecticut General Assembly are asked to consider whether the prosecutors of this state should have routine access to investigative grand juries, they ought to take a trip to the Walker Reception and Special Management Unit. That's a euphemism for prison. It's located in Suffield. When they get there, they should ask for a chance to speak with Micahel Seifert. He is a prisoner.
The 60-year-old Seifert is cooling his heels just now, awaiting trial on one of the thirteen bank robberies he is alleged to have committed in the greater Waterbury area. I'm sure there is an innocent explanation for it all. But right now, he will have to offer that explanation to Waterbury State's Attorney John Connelly.
Seifert's best defense appears to be the United States government. Uncle Sam wants to help Seifert. You see, Seifert did the feds a favor. He now wants the government to perform its end of the bargain. Seifert's fondest hope is that federal prosecutors will charge him with bank robbery and that the state will drop its charges. Then the feds can meet in secret with a federal judge and Seifert's lawyer, former prosecutor, now turned court-appointed defense lawyer, Brian Spears, to cash in on a cooperation agreement. Seifert most likely won't walk away from these crimes, although he could. He prays no doubt for the Sammy Gravanoi treatment. But Seifert certainly faces better prospects in the federal system, where prosecutors can talk about the substantial assistance Seifert gave to the government.
Call it attempted substantial assistance in this case. You see, Seifert tried his best, with the assistance of obliging FBI agents, to entrap a criminal defense lawyer into saying something inculpatory about Connelly. If all had gone according to federal plans, Attorney Martin Minnella would have promised Seifert the world, telling him that in exchange for a lot of cash, his old buddy John Connelly would take care of Seifert. This is the federal script that agents have been running around the state auditioning witnesses with for the past year. They have contacted Minnella's former and current clients looking for potential stars. (I represent Minnella, so call me partisan.)
But all this is supposed to be hush-hush, super-duper secret, Justice Department stuff. Try talking to the feds about this tidal wave of defamatory swill and you'll be lectured: "We don't talk about our investigations," I have been told in an accusatory tone: "You write about them." Case closed. Just call me Julian Assange.
The federal government now apparently wants Connelly to drop charges against Seifert. He has a conflict on the government's view. But they can't talk about the conflict. That's because they don't talk about their investigations. It all reeks of former Waterbury Mayor Philip Giordano: recall when Connelly blasted federal prosecutors for passively monitoring phone calls of the mayor's long after they knew he was taking liberties with young girls. Connelly wondered aloud which part of condoning child rape was consonant with justice. The feds are still fuming. Our honor, goodness me!
During the past six months, intrepid FBI agents have pounded on hundreds of doors seeking to make a case against Connelly and Minnella. Witnesses have been subpoenaed to yet another session of the grand jury, to take place just before Christmas. Federal agents are trolling the Waterbury courthouse again, checking their list of who has been naughty and nice, no doubt. Uncle Sam, it appears, is coming to town.
But perhaps not for poor Mr. Seifert. His lawyer informed Judge Richard Damiani that the man has been cooperating with federal authorities for well over a year. Doing what, pray tell? Wiring up to make recorded calls to Minnella? Recruiting other prisoners as part of a federal casting call? Will the grand jurors be told about all the chum thrown on prison waters in an effort to drag these two men through the mud? Will grand jurors learn of all the potential witnesses who laughed at the fantastic claims agents seek to press into the form of facts? Oops, that's confidential. We the people can't be trusted to know what work reputation's assassins do when they troll the state, banging on doors, suggesting audits and other unpleasantries might await the recalcitrant witness.
We don't need another level of super-secret fuck buddies wandering the state and playing lawmen. The lid is ready to blow off the Waterbury Superior Court based on deals with men like Michael Seifert. Do we really want to empower state prosecutors to play this silly and oh-so secret game of Spy vs. Spy? Or haven't we had enough of this nonsense already?
Reprinted courtesy of the Connecticut Law Tribune.