Pinto Takes Parting Shots at Lawyer

By Michael P. Mayko, Connecticut Post, Bridgeport

Mar. 15–WATERBURY — Paul Pinto concluded his testimony in the Steel Point trial Friday with a flourish. He claimed Alfred Lenoci Sr. provided an all-expense paid trip to Atlantic City for former Bridgeport Mayor Joseph P. Ganim and several of his supporters.

Pinto also denied arranging a meeting at the former Rusty Scupper restaurant in New Haven with Charles Willinger Jr., a Bridgeport-based land use lawyer, or demanding $200,000 under a threat “to shade” his testimony.

And then he ripped Willinger, calling him “unethical, deceptive and a liar.”

Pinto said he developed that opinion over the past 17 years while knowing, socializing and working with Willinger.

“You realize Mr. Pinto has admitted he was the mayor’s bagman and is a convicted felon,” Willinger said in an interview after court in response to Pinto’s testimony. “He has further admitted in the past that he has lied under oath. By the conclusion of this trial, we’ll all see who’s telling the truth.”

Unlike Pinto, Ganim and the two Lenocis (Alfred Sr. and Alfred Jr.), Willinger was not convicted in the Bridgeport corruption probe.

Pinto did testify Willinger was unaware of the $1 per square foot payment to the Lenocis for projects they developed in Bridgeport.

If that wasn’t enough, Pinto was asked if he was upset about the 8-foot stockade fence the elder Lenoci constructed around his home on The Circle in Easton last summer. The two live next door to each other, and Lenoci said he constructed the fence to avoid seeing Pinto, who he once employed.

Pinto also served as the best man at the younger Lenoci’s wedding, only to later wear an FBI recording device to try to record Alfred Jr. in December 2000.

“Was there a problem in your mind regarding the fence,” Pinto was asked by Ira Grudberg, the elder Lenoci’s lawyer.

“Not a problem in my mind,” Pinto replied.

“Does Mr. Lenoci have a relative — a brother-in-law, Stephen Grens — who lives across the street,” Grudberg asked. “Did you tell him if the Lenocis messed with you, you would fix them at the Conroy trial?”

“No, I did not,” Pinto said.

So ended another trial day in Superior Court Judge Barry K. Stevens’ courtroom as the second week of Alex Conroy’s lawsuit concluded.

The case will pick up Tuesday with testimony from Louis Ceruzzi, a principal in Ceruzzi Development and Starwood Ceruzzi, both in Fairfield. Ceruzzi, who has partnered in real estate deals with the Lenocis, is expected to be questioned by Conroy’s lawyers about attempts to help United Properties obtain the Steel Point project from Conroy. The public trial is being conducted on the third floor of the Superior Courthouse at 400 Grand St.Conroy is suing Ganim; the city of Bridgeport; Lenoci; his son, Alfred Jr.; and his cousin, Willinger; and Joseph Kasper Jr., the former owner of Kasper Group and HNTB, a Rocky Hill-based architectural and engineering project management company.

Pinto had been a defendant but, with his lawyer, H. James Pickerstein, constructed a deal that removed him.

So for the past three days, Pinto testified as a witness for Conroy. Sometimes it appeared he contradicted himself.

Early in his testimony, he claimed Ganim took action to stonewall and impede Conroy’s project in order to slide United Properties into it.

On Friday, Pinto admitted that he testified in a Feb. 22, 2007, deposition that “there was no specific plan to eliminate Conroy” and that the expectation was that Conroy’s proposal would fail “naturally.”

That came during questioning by Christian Young, who represents Alfred Lenoci Jr.

But when questioned by R. Bartley Halloran, one of Conroy’s lawyers, Pinto said his opinion was developed through conversations and newspaper articles, not marketing or demographic studies.

As to his admitted lying under oath, Pinto explained that came during the Ganim trial. At that time, he was asked about a Fairfield zoning meeting involving a beach house he owned and rented to college students.

“I don’t recall being there,” Pinto said.

Pinto did recall “bad blood” between Conroy and the elder Lenoci stemming from a West Hartford development deal involving the construction of a B.J.’s warehouse and a Home Depot.

“Conroy had to be bought out of that deal,” Pinto said.

“Did he tell you that the other partners put up the money they had to but Conroy did not?” Grudberg asked.

“No,” Pinto said.

Still Pinto claimed Lenoci flew Ganim, members of his family and several campaign contributors on a private jet to Atlantic City.

The witness said Lenoci footed the bill for “dinner, lunch, an enormous suite, massages, drinks “

“Were there any other bribes or gratuities?” asked Halloran, Conroy’s lawyer.

“Al Sr. paid for all masonry work at the house the mayor was building, all site work, all clearing of the property, building a chimney and a fireplace,” Pinto said. “He told me to make sure the mayor knew how much and to what degree he paid for the work.”


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