Four face election fraud charges in 2019 Bridgeport mayor’s race

The DCJ says Alfredo Castillo, Wanda Geter-Pataky, Nilsa Heredia and Josephine Edmonds face several election-related charges.

John Craven

Jun 11, 2024, 4:07 PM

Updated 39 days ago

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Four Bridgeport political operatives were charged with election fraud on Tuesday, including a Democratic party official at the center of a ballot stuffing scandal that led a judge to overturn a recent election.
The alleged crimes involve a race from five years ago – the 2019 contest for Bridgeport mayor.
One suspect’s husband called the charges “political…from sore losers.” But many voters said they’re happy prosecutors are finally holding campaign workers accountable.
CRIMINAL CHARGES
Bridgeport Democratic Town Committee Vice Chair Wanda Geter-Pataky, City Council member Alfredo Castillo and two campaign workers were charged with unlawful possession of absentee ballots, witness tampering and other violations of election law.
All four are accused of manipulating the absentee ballot system during the city’s 2019 Democratic primary, in which incumbent Joe Ganim defeated state Sen. Marilyn Moore by just 270 votes. During a trial challenging the results, voters claimed that campaign operatives filled out their ballots.
“He just asked me to sign my name and then he would take care of it – handle it from there,” voter Kadeem Graham testified. “And that was the last I saw of the ballot.”
But a judge ruled that the evidence wasn’t enough to order a new primary election.
“The plaintiffs were successful in identifying very serious election law violations, but the heat of this evidence was not hot enough to vacate the entire primary,” said Judge Barry Stevens.
The Connecticut Supreme Court agreed, allowing Ganim’s victory to stand.
FIVE YEAR INVESTIGATION
But the 2019 case wasn’t over.
After four years, the State Elections Enforcement Commission (SEEC) referred all four campaign workers to prosecutors, who charged them on Tuesday. Three of those charged supported Ganim, while Edmonds worked for Moore.
“I hope these prosecutions will send a message that deters tampering with election results in the future in Connecticut,” Chief State’s Attorney Patrick Griffin said in a written statement.
Griffin said some of the defendants misled voters about eligibility requirements for absentee ballots, told people which candidates to vote for, were improperly present when ballots were filled out and violated rules for handling both absentee ballot applications and the ballots themselves.
Voters said they are relieved prosecutors acted – even if it took five years.
“I’m glad they did, because we need to put an end to corrupt politicians,” said Danielle Giusto, of Bridgeport.
2023 BALLOT SCANDAL
Geter-Pataky’s legal troubles may not be over. Prosecutors are also investigating her role in a ballot scandal during the 2023 mayoral election.
A judge overturned the August primary between Ganim and challenger John Gomes, after surveillance videos allegedly showed Geter-Pataky and other Ganim operatives stuffing stacks of absentee ballots into drop boxes.
Geter-Pataky pleaded the fifth when called to the stand.
On Tuesday, her attorney, John Gulasch, declined comment. But Geter-Pataky’s husband maintained her innocence.
“She knows that’s not legal. She doesn’t break the law,” said Bryan Pataky. “This is political. This is from sore losers that couldn't function within the system. They were allowed to do the same thing, and they just didn’t have the manpower and the experience behind it.”
Ganim, who won the do-over election in February, issued this statement: “We only learned through the media that individuals from both 2019 mayoral primary campaigns have been charged with election violations. We have not been provided with any details other than what is contained in media reports.”
All four suspects will be arraigned in Bridgeport on June 24.
NEW REFORM LAW
Just hours after the arrest, Gov. Ned Lamont signed a new law requiring SEEC to refer election violations to prosecutors within 90 days. It also places new restrictions on when campaigns can sign out absentee ballot applications. Every absentee drop box in the state must also have a live, publicly-viewable camera during voting periods.
AP Wire Services contributed to this report


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