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    Monday, December 11, 2023

    Sentencings scheduled for April for convicted former CMEEC officials

    Three separate sentencing dates have been scheduled in mid-April in U.S. District Court in New Haven for three former utility officials convicted of theft in connection with controversial trips to the Kentucky Derby and a West Virginia golf resort.

    U.S. District Judge Jeffrey A. Meyer last Friday denied several motions seeking to overturn the jury’s guilty verdicts and to seek a new trial filed by former Connecticut Municipal Electric Energy Cooperative CEO Drew Rankin, former Norwich Public Utilities General Manager John Bilda and former CMEEC and Norwich utilities board chairman James Sullivan.

    Following that ruling, Meyer set the schedules for pre-sentencing reports by defense attorneys and U.S. attorneys in the case.

    Rankin, Bilda and Sullivan were found guilty in December 2021 by a jury of one count each of theft from a program receiving federal funds for their leadership roles in planning the 2015 trip to the Kentucky Derby and two trips to The Greenbrier resort in West Virginia. They were cleared of other theft and conspiracy charges, and two other defendants, Groton Utilities Commissioner Edward DeMuzzio and former CMEEC CFO Edward Pryor were found not guilty on all charges.

    The court schedule posted Tuesday calls for Rankin to be sentenced at 10 a.m. April 18. A pre-sentencing investigation report by the probation office is due March 7, any objections to be filed by March 21 and a second pre-sentencing disclosure is due March 31. A sentencing memorandum by Rankin’s attorneys is due April 4, and the government’s sentencing memorandum due April 11.

    The schedule for Sullivan follows one day later for each due date, with sentencing scheduled for 10 a.m. April 19. The probation pre-sentencing investigation is due March 8, objections are due March 22 and a second disclosure due April 1. Sullivan’s attorneys must file their sentencing memorandum by April 5, and U.S. attorneys must file by April 12.

    The schedule for Bilda follows one day after Sullivan’s dates, with sentencing scheduled for 10 a.m. April 20. The probation report is due March 9, objections to be filed by March 23 and a second disclosure by April 2. Bilda’s attorneys must file their sentencing memorandum by April 6, with the U.S. attorneys filing by April 13.

    Rankin, Sullivan and Bilda face a maximum sentence of 10 years on the theft conviction. Following their conviction on Dec. 10, 2021, Thomas Carson, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s office, told The Day the judge also could order restitution and levy fines on the defendants.

    Carson said last week that any appeals of the verdicts would be filed to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York City.

    Rankin and Sullivan could be back in court once the Kentucky Derby/Greenbrier trips proceedings are concluded. The two face two counts each of conspiracy and felony theft charges in a second indictment that alleges Sullivan received payments for personal travel and other expenses from CMEEC, approved by Rankin, totaling nearly $100,000 from 2010 to 2015.

    The parties and U.S. attorneys agreed to delay the start of that trial until “judgment is entered” in the Kentucky Derby/Greenbrier trips case.

    Throughout the FBI investigation, indictments and trial, CMEEC, a nonprofit electric cooperative owned by six municipally owned utilities, has been paying the legal fees for the defendants, per the cooperative’s bylaws at the time. CMEEC has filed a federal civil suit against its liability insurance company, National Union Fire Insurance Co. of Pittsburgh challenging the company’s denial of coverage for the legal defense costs.

    The judge in that case ruled in favor of a part of CMEEC’s claims, although the lawsuit is continuing and the parties remain at odds over the defense legal fees. CMEEC’s attorney has filed motions asking the judge to force the company to pay legal fees as they are incurred by the defendants. National Union has countered that through Dec. 21, 2022, the company has paid $5.2 million for the defense legal fees in the criminal case.

    CMEEC argues that the liability policy requires the company to pay legal fees in advance directly to the law firms or the defendants, while National Union claims the policy calls for reimbursement to CMEEC of “reasonable and necessary fees, costs and expenses consented to by the Insurer.”


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