Conn. Mayor Convicted of Racketeering
NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) _ Bridgeport Mayor Joseph P. Ganim agreed on Thursday to resign, a day after jurors found him guilty on 16 federal counts of corruption, the council president said.
Council President John Fabrizi met with Ganim to discuss the transition.
``The mayor did inform me he will be leaving office shortly,″ said Fabrizi, who would become interim mayor if Ganim steps down. ``I believe within the next week or so. He wants to ensure a smooth transition.″
Ganim would not confirm he is stepping down, but said in a statement he would meet with city council leaders next week to discuss ``what decisions need to be made to protect the best interests of the city.″ He said he has directed department heads to brief Fabrizi.
As long as there is a smooth transition, the resignation is likely to happen, said the mayor’s spokesman, Joe Gresko.
The mayor, who had been praised for reviving Connecticut’s largest city and dreamed of becoming governor, was convicted of 16 of 21 charges Wednesday in the largest corruption case in recent state history.
The 16 charges included racketeering, extortion and bribery. No verdict was returned on four counts of mail fraud and one count of extortion.
The three most serious charges, racketeering, racketeering conspiracy and extortion, each carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. Sentencing was set for July 1 and Ganim was allowed to remain free on bond.
The jury deliberated for about seven days in a trial that lasted more than eight weeks.
Prosecutors, who called 52 witnesses, painted Ganim as mayor of a largely impoverished city who felt entitled to accept more than $500,000 in illegal benefits from his associates in return for steering millions of dollars in contracts to them and their clients.
The benefits included cash, expensive wine, designer clothing, lavish meals and home improvements, according to testimony.
Ganim, a 43-year-old Democrat who has been mayor since 1991, was the only witness in his defense. He admitted he accepted some meals, wine and clothing, but called them gifts and denied they were in exchange for official actions. He denied the cash payoffs and said he repaid one of his associates for home improvements, a claim disputed by his friend.
Ganim raised funds for a 2002 gubernatorial bid, but he ended the effort in 2001 when it became apparent he was the target of a major FBI investigation.
Before Ganim’s trial began, 10 people _ including two of Ganim’s closest associates _ and one business had entered guilty pleas to charges ranging from racketeering to mail fraud.
Ganim’s defense argued that his associates had taken advantage of their relationship with the mayor for corrupt purposes, then blamed the mayor as a way to receive lenient treatment from authorities.