Hanging On The Telephone
With the long list of recent troubles for Danbury Trashers, ending with team owner James Galante's arrest on federal charges and the team having to suspend operations (if you missed any of it, start by reading here and working backwards), one of the last things of importance on that list would seem to be Galante's assault charge for punching a UHL official, charges that were dropped over a year ago.
Galante had been charged with hitting linesman Jim Harper after a Trashers game that got out of control, back on Dec. 1, 2004. As a result of that game, Trashers defenseman Rumun Ndur was suspended for 20 games for "physical abuse of officials", yet Galante, despite being charged by Danbury police, was given only a fine and a written warning for "being in a prohibited area" (the penalty box, which is where one of the fights broke out). Ridiculously enough, it was the linesman that got punched, Harper, who the UHL gave a suspension to, for five games.
With the assault charges against Galante dropped, the incident was swept under the rug, and the real story never became public. Unfortunately for the UHL and the League's president, Richard Brosal, though, Galante's phone conversations were being wire-tapped by the FBI, as part of their racketeering investigation against Galante and his trash-hauling company.
The Danbury News-Times posted some of the taped conversations on their web site a couple of weeks ago, and two of the conversations seem to show Brosal coercing Harper to change his story, at the behest of Galante.
To listen to the wire taps yourself, click on the Trashers' logo below, and you'll be taken to the Danbury News-Times web page where the sound files are posted.
Scroll down to the last two on the list, and you can listen to the conversations, which have crystal-clear recording quality. One of the phone calls sounds like Galante telling an associate, Ciro Viento, to call Brosal and tell him to get the linesman to drop the charges. The other phone call has Viento passing along the instructions to Brosal, who seems to agree to do what is asked.
To make things easier, I've transcribed the crucial parts of each conversation.
James Galante: I need you to call Richard... I want you to tell Richard, "Jimmy asked me to call you, but didn't ask me to call you"-- do you follow me?
Tell him that it is f***ing imperative that we get that letter that Harper's gonna write for Brosal, saying 'I called the Connecticut prosecutor, and I told him that I wanted to drop the case... I was just as much at fault, and now that my head's clear, I realize that when the incident took place, there was pushing and shoving in the penalty box, and I can't be sure now whether Mr. Galante hit me or didn't hit me, or if it was somebody else... Because I couldn't stand here and say that the man actually punched me in the mouth.' Okay?
What that does for him (Harper), because he's a cop, that's what they call 'establishing doubt'. They can't say that the guy just made it up and lied to have me arrested-- now, the guy cooled off, and he doesn't remember! He doesn't know!
Politically and business-wise, this is f****ing me up. You gotta explain to him that, in all the cases that the government's come after me for, there's never been any violence (involved) in my case. Although, they were looking for it-- now they have it. That's more important to me than all this other happy horse-s**t.
Viento: I was asked to give you a call, but not give you a call, so that you would never be put in a predicament where somebody said that you were called. You know how that goes, right?
Brosal: I got you. Go ahead.
Viento: He wanted me to impress upon you how important it is to get that letter from Mr. Harper for Monday.
Brosal: It'll be there Monday. It'll be faxed over to Jimmy's attorney first thing Monday morning, and it will say what we need it to say.
Brosal: Brad Jones (Vice President of Hockey Operations for the UHL) and I have spoken to the linesman (Harper), and have told him exactly what to put in there.
Viento: He wanted me to tell you, which I'm sure you already know, that 'In the confusion, we don't know who punched who or whatever, it could've been anyone.'
Brosal: Well, yeah. We have the opening statement that, 'I, Jim Harper, solemly swear that I have been coerced into dropping the charges.'
Viento: Ha-ha-ha-ha! (both laugh) Oh, man!
Brosal: No, he knows everything that needs to be put. We went into detail what needs to be done... Okay, so I'm glad that you made this call, but you didn't make this call, and I didn't speak to you?
Brosal (standing) and Galante
A follow-up article in the Danbury News-Times (this used to be the link to it, but it's since been shuffled off into their archives or something) quotes Brosal as saying that the two recordings are "misleading."
"If you listen to them together, I could see where the perception is that there was something going on here. What's very upsetting is, if you listen to that and you're a layman and nobody knows what really went on there, it really paints an ugly picture of my office and myself completely, when this is something that did not take place," Brosal is quoted as saying in the article. The article also says that the letter was never actually sent.
Jim Harper, who officiated in the AHL last year but never officiated in the UHL again, is a deputy sheriff in Oneida County, New York. He says that he was never going to write the letter.
"I gave Danbury police a statement that I got punched. I know I got punched and I'm not going to write a letter saying, 'No, it didn't happen.' Why would I do that?", the News-Times quotes Harper as saying, adding that Harper is looking into bringing a civil suit against Galante.
Brosal is quoted as saying that some of the League's team owners have heard about the tapes, and have still given him their "100% support."