|Kurt Claywell was not charged in the federal corruption probe into the administration of John Rowland (above). (JESSICA HILL/ASSOCIATED PRESS/FILE 2004)|
HARTFORD - A contractor who said he gave former governor John Rowland expensive cigars and champagne in exchange for access to state business was sentenced yesterday to another five years in prison for hiding personal assets from a bankruptcy court.
Kurt Claywell, 55, was convicted in July of conspiracy to commit bankruptcy fraud for attempting to conceal during a 2005 bankruptcy filing more than $200,000 in assets, including property, rare books, and a wine collection he told authorities he had given away.
US District Judge Alvin W. Thompson ordered the sentence to begin after Claywell finishes a 5 1/2-year term he began serving in October 2005 for unrelated federal tax and mail fraud convictions.
"Being sentenced to a lengthy prison term did not deter him from committing another crime," Thompson said.
Thompson also ordered Claywell to pay $86,000 in restitution, which included the value of the wine.
Claywell was also convicted last year of fourth-degree sexual assault and attempting to bribe the victim.
In seeking a shorter sentence, Claywell asked the judge to consider that he will be in his 60s before he is released from prison and can seek work to pay off his debts.
"I hope that my criminal record aside, my age will not be too much of an obstacle when I get out," he said.
In asking for the maximum sentence of five years, prosecutor Ann Nevin pointed out that Claywell's fraudulent bankruptcy filing was made within weeks of his 2005 sentencing.
"The defendant has demonstrated that he is incorrigible," she wrote in court papers. "The defendant's guilty pleas to financial fraud charges have not resulted in rehabilitation, but rather have been followed by additional financial fraud crimes resulting in significant financial loss to others and in the waste of taxpayer dollars better spent on other pursuits."
Claywell, a Simsbury electrical contractor, was not charged in connection with the federal corruption investigation of the Rowland administration, but told investigators he gave Rowland expensive cigars and champagne in exchange for access to state contracts. He was facing tax and fraud charges when he agreed to cooperate in the corruption probe that led to Rowland's resignation and one-year federal prison sentence.
Claywell's lawyers had asked for a sentence of about three years in the bankruptcy case. They said Claywell's latest scheme was bound to fail because his prior criminal record would lead to more scrutiny from creditors, which included the wife he was divorcing and his own divorce lawyer.
Thompson rejected that argument as a reason to reduce the sentence, saying most defendants who come before him can assert that their plots were doomed to fail.