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Lawyer sent cease and desist order to Tom Gilmer's opponent in May

An attorney representing Republican congressional candidate Tom Gilmer sent a cease and desist order to his opponent Justin Anderson in May, seeking to stop Anderson from making “defamatory” statements about Gilmer and from disseminating a video that shows Gilmer in a violent altercation with a former girlfriend in 2017. 

Marc Kasowitz, a partner with the New York-based law firm Kasowitz, Benson Torres LLP and a former personal attorney to President Donald Trump, sent an email to Anderson on May 22 saying that the firm was representing Gilmer, a candidate for the 2nd Congressional District, and that he was reaching out in regards to “false and defamatory statements” Anderson made about Gilmer.

The news of the cease and desist order, which was first reported by the New York Times on Monday, is the latest development in the Republican race for the 2nd District, which has been beset by turmoil. It began with Gilmer’s arrest the night before the primary election on domestic violence charges and subsequent criticism of how the allegations against Gilmer, which were known by leaders in the state Republican Party for months before the party overwhelmingly endorsed him on May 11, were not thoroughly vetted.

An ongoing recount in the race shows Gilmer winning by 14 votes, according to unofficial results from the Secretary of the State’s Office on Monday. Municipalities in the sprawling 2nd District have until Tuesday to complete the recount. In an announcement following his arrest, Gilmer said he was suspending his campaign, but has yet to formally withdraw from the race. If he wins after the recount, and does not withdraw from the race, his name will be on the ballot in November.

In his May 22 email to Anderson, Kasowitz said that his firm was aware that Anderson had informed “senior leadership of the Connecticut Republican Party” and members of the East Haddam Republican Town Committee that he had a video "purportedly showing an altercation between Mr. Gilmer and an ex-girlfriend," but then denies such a video exists.

“No such altercation between Mr. Gilmer and an ex-girlfriend ever occurred, and no video depicting any such altercation exists,” Kasowitz said.

He demanded that Anderson “immediately cease any further dissemination of defamatory statements and retract all prior defamatory statements concerning Mr. Gilmer.”

“Failure to do so will leave my client with no option but to pursue all available actions and remedies,” he wrote.

A message left at Kasowitz’s office Monday afternoon as well as an email request for comment were not returned by publication time.

Anderson provided The Day on Monday with a copy of the May 22 email from Kasowitz and another one Kasowitz sent on June 30 after the newspaper inquired about the cease and desist order.

He said he received the first email from Kasowitz around the same time he’d begun to reach out to members of the Republican Party, saying the victim had sent him a video showing an altercation between her and Gilmer, and asking their advice on how to handle the situation.

“Im not running around saying ‘Hey, Tommy Gilmer is in this video.’ I'm telling everyone, ‘We have a very explosive situation. What do you think?’" Anderson said.

Anderson eventually went to Wethersfield police with the video on July 22. In the warrant for Gilmer's arrest, Officer Zachary Gonzalez said the video, which was taken from a security camera in a hidden area of a home in Wethersfield and lasts 30 seconds, starts with Gilmer punching the victim in the face and jumping on top of her as she falls to the ground. In the video, Gilmer is seen attempting to choke her and punching her in the face multiple times, the warrant says.

Kasowitz contacted Anderson again on June 30, alleging that he continued to make “false and defamatory statements” about Gilmer and repeated his demand for Anderson to “cease making defamatory statements” against Gilmer.

If the firm didn’t receive a signed letter from Anderson "disavowing the statements and assertions concerning Mr. Gilmer and any video that you claim to possess depicting an altercation between Mr. Gilmer and an ex-girlfriend,” by 5 p.m. on July 2, “we will initiate legal proceedings against you and will hold you personally responsible for any and all damages suffered by Mr. Gilmer,” Kasowitz wrote.

Anderson said he sent an email to Kasowitz on July 1, saying he couldn't say with 100% certainty that the person depicted in the video is Gilmer, but that he couldn't deny the existence of the video.

While Anderson said he fully believes the video depicts Gilmer — a statement that is supported in the arrest report in which Gonzalez said that another officer was able to identify Gilmer in the video "due to a previous incident" — he said he felt "coerced" to make the statement given the threat of the lawsuit.

"The allegations in my mind are very, very real. I truly felt they were trying to coerce me into silence," Anderson said.

Gilmer's arrest and announcement that he was suspending his campaign came too close to the primary election for his name to be removed from the ballot. If he wins after the recount and formally withdraws from the race with the secretary of the state, the state Republican Party has up to 21 days before the general election to replace him.

It's unlikely Anderson would be nominated to fill the vacancy as some Republicans have criticized him for using the video for political gain. Anderson has said he felt conflicted about what to do with the video because the victim was adamant she did not want to go to the authorities. He said he ultimately deicided to turn it over to police after receiving other information about Gilmer from the victim, and after the video and allegations began circulating on social media, including criticism of him holding onto the video.

Whoever wins the Republican nomination will face off against U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, a Democrat who's held the seat since 2007.

Anderson said now is the time for "the party to rally together."

"Regardless of how many missteps there were, a bad actor has been rooted out and he is not going to go forward," Anderson said, adding that he hopes one positive result that comes out of the situation is justice for the victim.  

j.bergman@theday.com

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