BRIDGEPORT – On the fourth day of evidentiary hearings, counsel for the defendants provided no evidence or witnesses regarding accusations of absentee ballot fraud brought by mayoral candidate John Gomes.
The evidence proved nothing and did not merit a response, the defending counsel said.
Gomes filed the lawsuit after losing the Sept. 12 Democratic primary by 250 votes to Mayor Joe Ganim following a count of absentee ballots.
After questioning numerous witnesses and providing Judge William Clark with 180 pieces of evidence, Gomes’s attorney, Bill Bloss, officially rested his case at the Fairfield Judicial District Court on Thursday.
Soon after, three attorneys representing the defendants did the same – offering no evidence of their own and calling no witnesses to the stand.
In his lawsuit, Gomes named Ganim, Secretary of the State Stephanie Thomas, Democratic Registrar of Voters Patricia Howard and Town Clerk Charles Clemons as defendants.
Outside of the courtroom, John Kennelly, an attorney representing Howard, said it is the job of the plaintiff to provide evidence and call witnesses – not the defendants’.
“That’s Bill Bloss’s job on behalf of John Gomes,” Kennelly told reporters. “And we didn’t feel that enough evidence was put on to merit a response.”
At the three prior evidentiary hearings for the lawsuit, Bloss presented multiple videos – obtained from Bridgeport police – of activity at city ballot boxes. In many of the clips, two people, whom Bloss claims are Ganim supporters Wanda Geter-Pataky and Eneida Martinez, can be seen stuffing what appears to be stacks of absentee ballots into the boxes on numerous occasions.
Bloss also presented photocopies of counted absentee ballots, which he claims were improperly stamped and verified by Clemons.
But Kennelly said that he watched all the clips and reviewed all of the ballots, and the evidence proved “nothing.”
“For me, who watched all those video clips, the only thing they prove is that it rained a lot during the primary,” he said.
In 12 separate clips, Geter-Pataky – who is the vice chair of the Bridgeport Democratic Town Committee – appears to either drop ballots off herself or assist others in depositing the stacks.
In one clip, she seemingly high-fives one of the residents dropping off ballots at the Margaret E. Morton Government Center – her place of work. Gomes had already accused Geter-Pataky of stuffing ballot boxes in a leaked video that he uploaded online prior to filing the lawsuit.
But Kennelly said the clips failed to provide context, meaning they are not sufficient enough to prove that Geter-Pataky broke the law. He also questioned why Bloss decided not to bring the people that Geter-Pataky assisted in the videos into court.
“Why didn’t he subpoena them?” Kennelly asked. “We know that Ms. Pataky helped a number of people prepare their absentee ballot applications, which are all in evidence. There’s people’s names, there’s people’s addresses. Why weren’t they put on the stand to say anything illegal or improper occurred?”
Kennelly acknowledged that he also could have called the voters that Geter-Pataky assisted to the witness stand, but said it would have been a waste of time.
Asked about the defense counsel resting their case with no argument, Bloss told reporters he assumed they found no evidence to support an ongoing argument made by Ganim supporters that Gomes’ supporters also stuffed ballot boxes with absentee ballots.
“We kept reading that they’re going to show equivalent activity by Gomes supporters to what we saw in the video that Ms. Geter-Pataky was doing,” Bloss said. “But obviously, after reviewing the video, I think you can draw a reasonable conclusion that that evidence did not exist.”
Two days before, outside of the courthouse, Ganim said his campaign has proof of Gomes supporters also stuffing ballot boxes. In the footage released earlier this month, someone wearing a Gomes campaign shirt can be seen visiting the Boston Avenue ballot box numerous times to submit ballots.
But the defense lawyers who attended court on Thursday – Kennelly, attorney Richard Buturla for Clemons and attorney Timothy Holzman for the state – did not reference the clips of the Gomes supporter. Ganim’s representation, attorney Harold Rosnick, did not attend the hearing.
Moving forward, counsel for the plaintiff and defendants must submit closing briefs by Oct. 25 before Judge Clark makes his verdict.
Bloss said Clark’s role is simple – he has to determine whether Bridgeport residents violated election laws, putting the results of the primary in doubt.
In Connecticut, the state asserts that absentee ballots may only be returned by the voter themselves, a family member, a police officer, an election official or a caretaker. Given the evidence he presented, Bloss said he is confident that Clark will find violations and issue a new primary election.
“There were clearly violations of the election statutes on the videos,” he said.