Absentee ballot materials bundled with rubber bands on a table in the former Republican town clerk’s office waiting for the Democratic party chair to pick them up.
Testimony by a state election investigator that the former town clerk was involved in a ballot fraud “scheme.”
A still pending investigation of the clerk.
At State Superior Court in Stamford Wednesday, the office of the former town clerk appeared to be on trial as much as the one-time Democratic Party chair charged with forgery and filing false statements in absentee balloting – 28 Class D felonies in all.
In the third day of the trial of John Mallozzi, who chaired the Stamford Democratic City Committee and was a member of the Democratic State Central Committee, Judge Kevin Randolph interjected testimony with questions to help untangle the confusing story of how absentee ballots were handled during Stamford’s 2015 municipal election.
Mallozzi requested a bench trial, so it will be Randolph who will render a verdict after the testimony and evidence are presented. The trial is expected to end Friday.
The judge had a number of questions for Diane Pesiri, who has worked in the Stamford town clerk’s office for 22 years.
Pesiri, called as a witness by Assistant State’s Attorney Laurence Tamaccio, testified that the then-town clerk, Donna Loglisci, a Republican, gave her absentee ballot applications “to get ready and that John Mallozzi would pick them up. I processed them and put a rubber band around them and put them on a table in Donna’s office.”
Mallozzi’s attorney, Stephan Seeger, questioned how Mallozzi’s initials, JM, got on absentee ballot materials he is charged with forging.
Pesiri testified that she wrote JM on ballot materials at Loglisci’s instruction.
The judge wanted clarity.
“Donna Loglisci told you Mr. Mallozzi would pick them up?” Randolph asked Pesiri.
“Yes,” Pesiri replied.
“You put the initials on the documents before you saw Mr. Mallozzi collect them?” the judge asked.
“Yes. I was told he would pick them up. That’s why I put his initials there,” Pesiri said.
She also testified that she saw Mallozzi pick up actual absentee ballots, not just applications for ballots. Asked whether she ever saw Mallozzi return completed ballots to the town clerk’s office, Pesiri said, “If he brought them back, he would give them to Donna Loglisci.”
Seeger extensively cross-examined another witness for the state, Scott Branfuhr, an investigator with the State Elections Enforcement Commission. Branfuhr testified that the commission, which began the investigation, referred the case to the state’s attorney after it uncovered “evidence of several felonies” involving Mallozzi.
Seeger grilled Branfuhr about a report Branfuhr prepared for the SEEC when he concluded his investigation.
“Didn’t you call it a scheme?” Seeger asked.
“I believe so,” Branfuhr replied.
“Two people are involved in a scheme, right? You can’t do it with one person?” Seeger asked.
“No,” Branfuhr replied.
Seeger asked why Branfuhr “made a judgment” that, in a plot involving Mallozzi and Loglisci, only Mallozzi was charged.
“Isn’t your job all about ensuring election integrity? Wasn’t Donna Loglisci responsible for the absentee ballot process?” Seeger asked.
“Yes,” Branfuhr said.
Branfuhr said the SEEC legal staff thought Loglisci should be charged with official negligence and fraud “because she involved herself in a scheme to accept bogus absentee ballot applications and ballot sets.”
Seeger asked, “You knew Donna Loglisci broke the law, correct?”
“Yes,” Branfuhr said.
Seeger asked whether Loglisci was not referred to the state’s attorney because she had agreed to become a witness against Mallozzi.
“She cooperated to a certain degree,” Branfuhr said. “She neglected to tell us there was a quid pro quo.”
A quid pro quo would mean Loglisci expected something from Mallozzi in return for giving him the ballots. Branfuhr did not explain what it was, and Seeger didn’t ask.
Seeger did ask whether the SEEC investigation will continue. Branfuhr said the commission suspends its investigation while the state is bringing a case.
“Do you still have the authority to go after Donna Loglisci?” Seeger asked.
“Yes,” Branfuhr said.
“Is that what the commission intends to do?” Seeger asked.
“That is what the commission intends to do,” Branfuhr said.
Seeger has said that he and his client hope the case will publicize the need for more oversight of the absentee ballot system in Connecticut, and that procedures will be tightened to increase election integrity.
The case came to light when a Stamford man was told at his polling place that he could not vote because he’d already voted by absentee ballot.
It turned out that a ballot had been taken out in the man’s name without his knowledge. Investigators said they traced it to Mallozzi, and later found 13 other ballots that appeared to be forged.
Mallozzi is charged with 14 counts each of forgery in the second degree and filing false statements in absentee balloting. Class D felonies are punishable by up to five years in prison and/or a fine of up to $5,000 per count.