Connecticut's Mafia style legislators
ROSS TAYLOR, July 24, 2007
Lashing Back Against DeLuca [Hartford Courant article]
In-Law, Admitting He's `No Angel,' Calls Senator A `Liar'
MARK COLELLA, 40, of Waterbury, who is married to the granddaughter of Sen. Louis DeLuca, responded angrily to DeLucas attempt to arrange to have someone intimidate Colella after allegations that Colella was beating his wife. Colella says he never mistreated his wife; her only comment is, We have a great marriage.
By CHRISTOPHER KEATING | Capitol Bureau Chief
August 5, 2007
Mark Colella asked to meet at a fast-food restaurant across the street from a Southington truck stop. He showed up an hour early to scope out the territory.
Seated outside at a picnic table with his back to the restaurant, Colella could see every car that entered and left the parking lot. He quickly looked up several times as male customers approached the restaurant at lunch time. His head spun around to scrutinize a noisy U-Haul truck driving by.
Colella says he's not having an easy time these days - constantly looking over his shoulder and carrying a weapon after being told by FBI agents that mobsters were looking to harm him.
In June, he was thrust onto the public stage after state Sen. Louis C. DeLuca said Colella's alleged physical abuse of his wife, DeLuca's granddaughter, had spurred DeLuca to ask a Danbury trash hauler with mob connections to intimidate him.
The scandal has revolved around DeLuca, who pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor conspiracy charge for asking James Galante, the trash hauler, to intimidate Colella. But Colella, who says he has never hurt his wife, also says the threat of being injured, or worse, hangs over him day and night. He sleeps only a few hours at night and often jumps at the slightest noise.
What's more, he says, he is mentioned in virtually every news story about DeLuca.
"I want my name cleared," Colella said in a lengthy interview. "I'm no angel. But I didn't do what he said I did. The guy's a liar. There's no other way to put it. I'm not going to be the focus of this guy's spin, and I'm not going to be the whipping post. There's always two sides to every story. All they have is his side."
Ordinarily, family quarrels are private matters. But the rules change when a dispute involves the FBI, mob connections and the family of a longtime state figure such as DeLuca, the former highest-ranking Republican in the state Senate.
Two months after DeLuca's guilty plea, Colella is still angry about being constantly on guard and about being accused of abuse he says he never committed. And he blames one man: Lou DeLuca.
"I'd like to smack his teeth down his throat," Colella says. "I consider him an enemy. I can't do anything to him because I'll go to jail."
DeLuca, who has stopped talking publicly about his case because he says he could be called as a witness in a potential Galante trial, did not return telephone calls to his home, his press aides or his attorney.
Although DeLuca has resigned as Senate GOP leader, he is under increasing pressure to resign his seat as well. He's held that seat, representing 10 Waterbury area towns in the 32nd Senate District, since 1990.
Top senators announced last week they will form a bipartisan committee to investigate the senator's guilty plea. The committee could recommend sanctions, including reprimand, censure or expulsion from the Senate. A key Republican senator, David Cappiello of Danbury, has already called for DeLuca to step down. After Cappiello's statement, DeLuca released his own statement saying, "Once again, I am not resigning."
What has brought DeLuca to this crisis in his career at the age of 73 stems directly from his conflict with the 40-year-old Colella.
The clash reveals a far different picture from the portrait of family unity on display only seven months ago. In a tale told by Colella - and confirmed by the official Senate transcript - many DeLuca family members gathered then at the state Capitol to celebrate the senator's return as top Republican leader.
All In The Family
It was Jan. 3, 2007 - opening day of the legislative session.
On this festive occasion, lawmakers invite their closest relatives and friends to the ornate chambers to share the joy of their election victories from the previous November. The celebration prompted DeLuca to pick up his microphone for some heartfelt remarks.
"As we all know, you can't do this without family," DeLuca said, according to the Senate transcript. "And I thank the support of my family these many years for not only their support, but their dedication, and especially my wife, Alice, who, as you know, answers the phone and probably solves more of the problems before I get home.
"Also, joining us here today are two of my daughters - my daughter, Gail, and her son, my grandson, Oliver. My other daughter, Kathy, and her daughter, Casey, and her husband, Mark Colella. And for the first time in this chamber, my first great-grandson, Rocco Colella."
Fellow senators broke out into applause as they had for other families, but few knew that day about the complicated relationship between DeLuca and Mark Colella.
Colella himself had no idea that DeLuca had met with Galante in a Woodbury diner nearly two years earlier to ask him to have Colella threatened because of alleged physical abuse of his wife, Casey. Colella says he knew nothing about DeLuca's involvement until the senator pleaded guilty last month to a misdemeanor conspiracy charge.
What Colella did know that day was that two FBI agents had come to his home to tell him that mob associates were looking to physically assault or even kill him. And he still believes that the assault could be carried out by mob associates in the future.
"This is not over by a long shot," Colella says. "It's never going to be over."
Casey Colella, who is caught between her family and her husband, has kept a low profile during the two months that her grandfather's problems have been in the newspapers. She declined to speak in detail about the situation, saying she would rather not talk at all.
"I just want all of this to go away," she said. "As far as me and my husband are concerned, we have a great marriage."
A self-styled tough guy, Mark Colella first stepped forward as a colorful character in the DeLuca saga during an appearance in early June outside the Waterbury courthouse following DeLuca's sentencing on the misdemeanor charge.
The 5-foot-6 Colella, standing before a knot of reporters and TV cameras, boasted about being "100 percent Sicilian." Anyone who tries to intimidate him, he announced, better "bring a lot of bullets."
At the time, Colella - who had just learned DeLuca was involved in the threats - said he had nothing against the senator and thought the former Republican leader had been given bad information about the alleged domestic abuse.
Aside from that appearance, Colella has remained relatively quiet. But now, Colella says, every time DeLuca's conviction is mentioned in the media, he is dragged back into the story. And he is tired of it.
"This guy came out like a hero, and I came out like the villain," Colella says. "That blows my mind."
Colella emphatically rejects DeLuca's account of why the senator approached Galante. DeLuca has stated that he went to the trash hauler only after Waterbury police told him they could do nothing because his granddaughter - Colella's wife - would not file a criminal complaint against her husband.
"You're telling me a senator went to the Waterbury police and they turned him away?" Colella asked. "The guy is lying and lying and lying."
DeLuca also initially told the FBI that he went to Galante to arrange a job for Colella, according to his arrest warrant affidavit. Two weeks later, he admitted that the discussion with Galante concerned scaring Colella.
Colella says he is telling the truth. He says his life is an open book, even though some of it is not complimentary.
Some say that Colella has the type of record - both criminal and personal - that could alarm any grandfather who was concerned about his granddaughter.
A convicted felon who says he has been in prison "four or five times," Colella admits he has fathered five children by four different women. The children range in age from 5 months to 16 years. Court records in Waterbury show years of disputes between Colella and his children's mothers over thousands of dollars in child support. At the peak, he says, he owed more than $30,000 but has now whittled that down to about $3,500.
A one-time used car salesman who now says he's a "car wholesaler" in Waterbury, Colella has had financial problems that were documented in a 2004 financial affidavit in court in which he wrote "0" under "total cash value of all assets."
He says he has spent about three years in prison for various offenses, including being held before a trial for spousal abuse. Colella says this was a case, involving his first wife, that he eventually won at trial. All records of acquittals are erased from public records, and a clerk at the courthouse in Waterbury said there are no public records available on Colella.
State prison records show that he served one year at the Garner Correctional Institution in Newtown for credit card theft, but there was no record of the time that Colella says he was in prison when he was unable to pay a high bail.
"That's all we have for criminal cases," said Joan Ellis, the freedom of information administrator for the correction department. "That's all we got."
Colella was imprisoned four other times: stints of two days, one day and five days, in civil cases, and one in 2005 for failing to pay child support. Court documents in Waterbury show that Casey Reilly, DeLuca's granddaughter, paid the bond money to get Colella released on Oct. 21, 2005. That was more than six months after DeLuca had complained to Galante about the couple's relationship.
While there is little consensus in a domestic case that involves different versions by DeLuca, Colella and the Waterbury police, many of the details that Colella provided about his life, even those that were derogatory, were later proved accurate by court papers or other documents.
How It All Started
The Mark Vincent Colella saga began in January 2005 when he first saw Casey Reilly, a waitress at the Spartan Restaurant & Bar. The Italian place features pizza, grinders and fried seafood on Chase Parkway in Waterbury. Colella immediately knew Casey was the one for him.
She walked over to his table to take the order. He blurted out his feelings.
"I said, `Some day, I'm going to marry you,'" Colella recalls. "There was something about her."
Three weeks from the moment he saw her, they were married before a justice of the peace. It was Valentine's Day, 2005.
No one in the bride's large Italian family knew about the secret wedding, and they did not learn about it until two weeks later.
"She didn't tell her family," Colella says. "She comes from Woodbury - a very sheltered world with pretentious snobs."
It was a full year, Colella says, before he met Lou DeLuca, who had played a key role in raising his granddaughter.
There were immediate problems between Colella and the DeLuca family. First, Colella is 14 years older than his wife. Second, he had a criminal record and had served time in prison. Third, Colella already had three other children by three different women.
The DeLuca family suggested that the hasty marriage be annulled, to no avail.
But less than two months after the wedding, in April 2005, according to the FBI, DeLuca met with Galante in the Woodbury diner - before DeLuca had ever spoken a word to Colella.
Today, Colella speaks fondly of his wife, who has given birth to two children.
"My wife is the mirror image of me. She's tough," Colella says. "You take a swing at my wife, and you better sleep with one eye open."
That toughness is part of what frustrates Colella. He says there is no way that he would be beating a woman who can certainly handle herself.
"My wife's no pushover," he says. "They make it sound like I got her chained in the basement, and I'm whipping her."
Beyond having his name printed in every major Connecticut newspaper following DeLuca's guilty plea, Colella's troubles have continued.
Based on an anonymous letter, Waterbury detectives showed up at his house about four weeks ago to check Casey for bruises, Colella says. They interviewed his wife and him separately; the detectives left, Colella says, after they found nothing.
Waterbury Police Chief Neil O'Leary did not return telephone calls seeking comment for this article.
Living In Fear
Colella is constantly on guard, he says, because he firmly believes the threats made against him could still be carried out - even after the arrests of DeLuca, Galante and Richard Caccavale, a trusted Galante associate who prosecutors say was involved in the planning of Colella's intimidation.
As a result, Colella sleeps every night with a weapon on him - not under the bed.
He refuses to sit in his recliner with his young children in his Waterbury house for fear that bullets will come crashing through the picture window.
For the first year after he learned about the mob threats from the FBI, Colella says, he checked all the closets of the condominium where he was living for fear that someone might be hiding there.
"The psychological aspect was worse than taking a beating," Colella says. "My wife said, `You're freaking out.'"
Today, he changes cars every few months - made easier because of his work as a car wholesaler in Waterbury.
"I had to go to the doctor's because I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown," he says. "This is all because of Sen. DeLuca. I go out and start my car and then I get my wife and kids in case they come and shoot me. How would you like to live like that?"
Colella says he consulted doctors on his condition, and court documents confirm that at least two doctors in Waterbury were involved last year in psychiatric evaluations.
When asked during the interview if he was armed, Colella reached toward his belt and quickly flipped open a switchblade.
Colella knew that he was not initially dealing with high-level mobsters. If that were the case, he says, he would already be dead. He says he has no fear of low-level thugs and Waterbury tough guys. His real concern lies with potential future dealings with higher-level mobsters.
"I'm more scared of the Easter bunny than I am of Jimmy Galante," Colella declares. "He's a nobody. He's a victim."
Galante's attorney, Hugh Keefe, responded, "The gentleman is absolutely, 100 percent correct in that he has nothing to be afraid of from Mr. Galante, and neither does anyone else."
Keefe, who has represented Galante for more than a year, has consistently downplayed the government's wiretapped evidence against his client as simply trash haulers talking tough and not following through on that talk.
Galante currently faces 93 counts in an updated indictment that charges him with racketeering, racketeering conspiracy, witness tampering, mail fraud and extortion. Prosecutors say Galante has paid nearly $800,000 in "mob tax" since 2001 to the New York-based Genovese crime family in a criminal scheme that allowed him to control the garbage industry in western Connecticut and neighboring suburban New York. Of 32 people charged so far in the case, 24 have pleaded guilty, said Tom Carson, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office.
The fast-talking Colella admits he could fit an Italian stereotype. He admits he might have been overdressed for the interview, wearing a pin-stripe suit and saying that he looked like Al Capone. He has no regrets about his comments outside the courthouse in June that anyone threatening him better have a lot of bullets.
"I stand by what I said that day," Colella says, drinking a Coke. "If anybody comes to hurt my family, they better watch it. I'm not going down without a fight."
A Strange Relationship
DeLuca and Colella have had a complicated relationship. Even though DeLuca had asked Galante to have his associates threaten Colella, the two had appeared to get along.
Besides being introduced in January on the Senate floor, Colella says he has met DeLuca about eight times and been to DeLuca's Woodbury home perhaps four times - all after DeLuca's meeting with Galante.
He recently was invited to DeLuca's home for a picnic, Colella says, though he turned down the offer.
"He's a very charismatic guy," Colella says. "But [convicted murderer] Jeffrey Dahmer was a likable guy when he worked in that chocolate factory. ... They tried to have me killed or beaten up. You want me to say something good about them?"
Colella says he simply wants to go back to living a low-key existence in which his name is no longer in the news.
"I got married thinking I would live a nice, quiet life," Colella says.
"I just want to be left alone. I don't want to be rich. I don't want to be famous. I just want to be left alone. ... We would have a great marriage if everybody minded their business."
Contact Christopher Keating at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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