Former Senate attorney pleads guilty to theft and forgery

HARTFORD — After years of court delays, Michael J. Cronin, a former top Republican attorney in the state Senate, on Wednesday pleaded guilty to theft and forgery charges in connection with the secret theft of $250,000 from a political action committee he for the Republicans, guilty caucus, who used it for personal expenses and mortgage payments between 2014 and 2018.

In a settlement, Cronin, 60, of Avon faces a 10-year sentence, suspended after three years or less, depending on how much compensation he can pay back for stealing $248,670, according to the Republican leadership’s Political Action Committee of the Senate ahead of the late September sentencing date.

The plea ends a chapter in state politics that exploded in the Capitol in December 2018 when Cronin, now a disfellowshipped attorney, reported his theft to the attorney general’s office. A separate civil case remains pending against Cronin, who went from being one of the top attorneys at the state Capitol to a convicted felon.

During a 40-minute pleading session before Hartford Superior Court Justice David P. Gold, Assistant District Attorney Christopher Alexy reported on a wide-ranging case of deception and fraud in which Cronin admitted guilt to five felonies, including four counts of forgery related to a loan application and the refinancing of the home he lived in with his ex-wife and a related forgery of a document that required a notary’s seal.

“I do, Your Honor,” Cronin said a dozen times during the performance, which came after four and a half years of uninterrupted court hearings during the COVID pandemic and multiple switches of Cronin’s attorneys. At Cronin’s side was attorney JL Stawicki, a public defender, while nearby, in the third-floor courtroom at Gold, was an attorney for Cronin’s ex-wife, who told the judge she wanted an additional $449,956.47 from him. so that these are also taken into account in the sentencing House which is now in foreclosure.

“My client disclosed everything,” said Stawicki

Cronin told the court that he returned some of the money when he ran the Senate PAC when he was the sole treasurer responsible for paying vendors and other expenses.

When Gold totaled the charges, Gold said Cronin faces a total of 40 years in prison. “I see,” Cronin said. Gold reminded Stawicki and Cronin that at the time of the Sept. 28 sentencing hearing, they can seek prison terms of less than the three years stated in their pleadings. “Your attorney can argue to try to persuade the court to give you a lesser sentence,” the judge said. “That’s how I understand it,” Cronin replied.

“Once I accept your plea today, you cannot change your mind,” Gold said from his elevated desk at the head of the courtroom in front of about 50 people who are due to face hearings on various crimes. “I understand your honor,” Cronin said, who then went downstairs for a parole interview and a DNA sample.

Cronin worked for years for then-Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano of North Haven, who said at the time of Cronin’s arrest that he felt cheated by the theft. On Wednesday afternoon, Fasano, now the General Assembly’s legislative commissioner, who is busy on the final day of the legislative session, said he was unaware of the deal and declined to comment.