‘Political injustice.’ Bridgeport ballot fraud suspects challenge arrests

These charges do not involve the 2023 mayoral race, which required a rerun after instances of absentee ballot fraud were caught on camera.

John Craven

Jun 24, 2024, 11:20 AM

Updated 26 days ago


It’s a sight few thought they would ever see in scandal-plagued Bridgeport.
On Monday, four campaign operatives appeared in court on ballot fraud charges – including a City Council member and a powerful Democratic Party leader.
But two of the suspects are fighting back, insisting they are innocent of a “political injustice,” or being made a scapegoat for Mayor Joe Ganim.
The charges date back to the 2019 Democratic primary for mayor, where Ganim defeated state Sen. Marilyn Moore by just 270 votes. Three Ganim operatives – Democratic Town Committee Vice Chair Wanda Geter-Pataky, city Councilman Alfredo Castillo and volunteer Nilsa Heredia – are all accused of illegally tampering with absentee ballots. So is Moore staffer Josephine Edmonds.
“Today, to see these people finally being brought to justice, is a great day for democracy,” said Callie Heilmann, with Bridgeport Generation Now, which unsuccessfully challenged the 2019 results in court.
The best-known suspect is Geter-Pataky, who made national news for a recent ballot stuffing scandal. Prosecutors are still considering criminal charges in that case.
As for the 2019 charges, Geter-Pataky declined to comment as she walked into court Monday. But after her arrest, her husband proclaimed 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.”
Also charged is city Councilman Alfredo Castillo. According to an arrest warrant, Castillo filled out another voter’s absentee ballot. That voter testified during the 2019 case.
“He just asked me to sign my name and then he would take care of it – handle it from there,” testified voter Kadeem Graham. “And that was the last I saw of the ballot."
Castillo pleaded not guilty on Monday. After his arraignment, Castillo’s lawyer insisted the incident never happened.
“It’s a whole political injustice,” said attorney Sam Kretzmer. “This is what this whole case is about, and we’re going to fight this and deal with this in court.”
The third suspect is Ganim volunteer Nilsa Heredia. According to the arrest warrant, a voter told investigators: “I filled the ballot out, marking the names Nilsa told me to."
On Monday, Heredia’s lawyer said she is a scapegoat for Ganim.
“How is it impossible that Joe Ganim didn’t know this kind of shenanigan was going on?” asked attorney Ken Krayeske. “Why isn’t Joe Ganim here? My client has an eighth-grade education and she’s lived in public housing her entire life.”
Ganim insists he was unaware of any wrongdoing on his campaign, but he acknowledged that workers “violated election laws” in 2023.
“I’m embarrassed, and I’m sorry with what happened with the campaign,” Ganim said in a December radio interview. “Granted, I had no knowledge of what was going on.”
The final suspect is Josephine Edmonds, who worked for the Moore campaign. Along with Geter-Pataky and Heredia, Edmonds is also charged with witness tampering.
According to her arrest warrant, a voter told investigators, “Josephine Edmonds came to my house and told me not to tell them that she took our ballots."
Edmonds and her attorney left the courthouse out of a side door without speaking to reporters.
All four suspects were ordered to stay away from the voters they allegedly committed ballot fraud against. They will be back in court on July 10.
The charges come five years after Bridgeport Generation Now first raised red flags to the State Elections Enforcement Commission.
“We discovered and uncovered patterns and practices of illegal misconduct in the name of rigging Bridgeport’s local elections,” said Heilmann.
Outside the courthouse, the group Fight Voter Fraud Inc. said the arrests took way too long.
“We're looking at five years ago,” said founder and CEO Lynda Szynkowicz. “Which again, the 2023 incidents never would have happened had it actually been adjudicated a lot quicker."
Fight Voter Fraud Inc. is attempting to force a judge to arrest Geter-Pataky in the 2023 ballot stuffing scandal. The Connecticut Supreme Court is now deciding whether voters can use an obscure 70-year old law to go around the usual arrest warrant process.
In the meantime, Gov. Ned Lamont just signed a new law that speeds up ballot fraud investigations and limits campaigns’ access to absentee ballot applications.

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