“Fill Up My Tank”

Thomas MacMillan PhotoFire Inspector Corey Bellamy turned down a cash offer to testify against an assistant chief for asking a subordinate to fill his gas tank. Bellamy testified against the subordinate instead.

At least that’s the version of the story told in an arrest warrant affidavit.

The affidavit, written by New Haven police Detective Lynn Meekins, details an investigation she conducted into firefighter Aaron Brantley (pictured). Brantley is scheduled to appear in court Jan. 22 to answer two charges of attempting to bribe a witness, a felony. Police arrested him on those charges Monday.

Reached Wednesday, Brantley, a New Haven native in his ninth year with the department, said he’s “not at liberty” to discuss whether he plans to plead not guilty. His attorney, Hugh Keefe, characterized the case against his client as “very thin.”

The affidavit, made available in Superior Court Wednesday, identifies two fire department employees as the witnesses Brantley attempted to bribe: Bellamy and Deputy Fire Marshal Faustino Lopez. Those two witnesses notified Assistant Chief Patrick Egan, who filed a complaint with the police department on Aug. 22.

The episode dates back to last June, when Brantley filed a state discrimination complaint against two department superiors, Assistant Chief Egan and Captain Matthew Marcarelli. Brantley claimed they discriminated against him because of his race, ordering him to do “nonsensical” tasks while on light-duty due to an injury.

One day that same month, Lopez told Detective Meekins, he bumped into Bellamy upon arriving for work at the Grand Avenue fire headquarters. “Lopez stated he was in disbelief when he heard Bellamy explain that Aaron Brantley attempted to coax him into providing false testimony regarding an incident that occurred in May 2012. Lopez heard Bellamy state that Brantley offered him 2-3 percent of the potential monetary settlement that he anticipates being awarded in the CHRO [Connecticut Human Rights and Opportunities] complaint for Bellamy’s testimony,” according to Meekins’ affidavit.

“During a private conversation in Lopez’s second floor office, Bellamy stressed to Lopez how uncomfortable he felt being asked by Brantley to give a false statement in exchange for payment. Bellamy stated to Lopez that he refused the offer.”

On a subsequent day the same month, Brantley “approached” Lopez “with the same proposition,” including the 2-3 percent figure, the affidavit quotes Lopez as stating.

The offer had to do with an incident Lopez had indeed witnessed on an earlier day. He and Brantley “were about to leave Fire Headquarters to perform inspections” that day “when they saw the Assistant Chief at his normal place for a smoke break,” according to the affidavit. “When the Assistant Chief observed Lopez and Brantley in the vehicle, the Assistant Chief asked them where they were going. Brantley appeared to become immediately upset and stated he felt the Assistant Chief only asked where they were going because they were together. Brantley went on to ask Lopez if the Assistant Chief had ever questioned him in that manner. Lopez explained that it was common practice for him and the Assistant Chief to cross paths and engage in conversations.”

Brantley subsequently called Lopez on his department-issued cell phone to “suggest ... Lopez should mention through his testimony that the Assistant Chief was directly harassing Brantley because the Assistant Chief does not normally inquire about things of that nature,” according to affidavit. Brantley allegedly called him a second time “to see if Lopez had reconsidered the offer.”

Detective Meekins also interviewed Corey Bellamy as part of her investigation. She told him Brantley twice called him on his department-issued cell phone to try “to bribe him for favorable testimony” involving the gas-tank incident, according to the affidavit.

Bellamy described that incident: “[T]he Assistant Chief asked Brantley to ‘fill up my tank’ to his department vehicle. The vehicle was parked at the gas pumps at Fire Headquarters during work hours. Bellamy explained it was common practice for staff to fuel the Assistant Chief’s vehicle and did not view the request as abnormal but Brantley appeared upset by this.” Subsequently, Brantley called Bellamy on his department-issued cell phone soliciting his testimony, according to the affidavit.

Meekins obtained a search warrant for Brantley’s cell phone records. The records confirmed that Brantley repeatedly had called Lopez and Bellamy, according to the affidavit.

On Dec. 5, the detective asked Attorney Keefe if Brantley would submit to a voluntary interview. Brantley declined.

On Monday, he turned himself in to the police lock-up at 1 Union Ave. to be arrested. He was released from custody on a $20,000 bond.

Following is an earlier version of this story:

Thomas MacMillan PhotoFirefighter Aaron Brantley turned himself in at the police station Monday afternoon and was arrested on two counts of attempting to bribe a witness.

Brantley (at left in photo, with attorney Hugh Keefe, outside the police station Monday), who’s 33, was released on a $20,000 bond.

The charge against Brantley stems from a complaint he filed last year with the state Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO). Brantley, who joined the New Haven fire department in 2003, claims Assistant Chief Pat Egan and Captain Matthew Marcarelli discriminated against him because of his race, ordering him to do “nonsensical” tasks while on light-duty due to an injury.

Brantley is accused of attempting to bribe two firefighters to back up his claims. He allegedly offered to split the proceeds of a successful CHRO settlement with the two men. The case was investigated by Detective Lynn Meekins.

Pat Egan originally brought the complaint to police, according to Assistant Chief Archie Generoso.

Brantley showed up at police headquarters just before noon to turn himself in. He was accompanied by his brother, his fiancee, firefighter union President Jimmy Kottage, and attorney Hugh Keefe.

As he waited outside for his client to be processes, Keefe said, “Aaron is a highly reputed New Haven firefighter. ... It’s a very thin case against him.”

Keefe said he hadn’t yet seen the arrest warrant affidavit.

Brantley emerged from the police station at around 12:30 p.m. He declined to speak to several reporters.

“I’m here for support,” Kottage said, after Brantley got into the passenger side of Keefe’s black BMW and drove off. “When the smoke clears, there may be another story here.”

Kottage declined to comment further. Assistant Chief Egan deferred comment to city Corporation Counsel Victor Bolden, who did not return a request by press time.

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posted by: Bob Serrante on January 14, 2013  2:55pm

Hugh Keefe states that Aaron is a highly reputable firefighter, and in the same sentence, declares that he has not seen the arrest warrant.  Are you kidding me?  Did this attorney ever meet this guy before?  How does he know that he is highly reputable, based on what?  Hugh Keefe is having another one of his senior moments.
    On the other side, New Haven firefighters have a long standing history of discrimination against blacks.

posted by: ELMCITYDOC on January 15, 2013  3:20pm

Part of me REALLY wants to quote Fred G. Sanford right now.

posted by: Kathy on January 18, 2013  9:42pm

Brantly should be fired! Does he realize that suing the city he works for is suing the hardworking taxpayers of New Haven? I am so proud of Mr. Bellamy and Mr. Lopez for coming forward and doing the right thing! I know Mr. Lopez and his parents (who live in New Haven and pay taxes!) What a fine son they raised! They should be proud! It is crazy that someone like Mr. Brantly would lie and try to ruin someone’s good name by calling them racist. I hope he loses his job, he is a cheat and I would never trust him to work for the best interest of the city. FIRE HIM!!!

posted by: Tata on January 19, 2013  12:08pm

I feel that this firefighter if found guilty should have to pay back the monies he is getting now while on paid leave of absence.
Also he should lose his pension instead of the public paying for all these bad boys who think they can do anything they feel they can.
If he did receive help from fellow firefighters which I give praise to them for standimg up and coming forward we the tax payers would be paying for the lawsuit.
He needs to feel some harsh penalty if found guilty.