Jonathan McDonald worked as a clerk for the General Assembly last year when he allegedly sold cocaine to undercover federal agents at an East Hartford strip club.
McDonald, 28, worked as a manager and disc jockey at Kahoots on Main Street in East Hartford. The club has been closed since police arrested him and a co-worker, Renaldo Byrd.
Byrd, 39, of Hartford, pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge in September and was sentenced to one year in jail. The club has been closed since the arrests, but the owner is fighting to reopen.
East Hartford Police, working with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, arrested McDonald on May 21, a month after he stopped working at the Capitol, but he began selling drugs to undercover agents while still on the state payroll.
McDonald is scheduled to appear in Manchester Superior Court Wednesday facing two counts of possession with intent to sell, two counts possession with intent to sell within 1,500 feet of a daycare and one count conspiracy to sell narcotics.
In a letter to the judge, McDonald said he successfully completed two treatment programs and, at the time of writing, was drug-free for more than five months. “After I complete whatever consequences are handed down for my deplorable actions, it will be the last that any court system ever hears of me,” he wrote.
A Waterbury native, McDonald worked as assistant commerce committee clerk from Jan. 9 to April 12, 2013, earning about $7,600. Assistant clerks at the Capitol only work while the General Assembly is in session and not always for the entire session.
Previously, McDonald worked on the reelection campaign of Rep. Jeffrey Berger, D-Waterbury. Berger said he hired McDonald to work on the campaign when he returned from college and then recommended him for the clerk job based on his performance.
“His father, Brian, has been a friend of mine for life,” Berger said. “He had this temporary addiction and he spiraled out of control.”
Berger said McDonald was one of eight people he recommended to the House Democrats for a clerk position.
According to the arrest warrant affidavits, complaints in February 2013 prompted the ATF investigation in cooperation with local police. “Undercover operations were conducted, revealing that several employees are either aware and/or involved in the distribution of narcotics and prostitution,” an affidavits says.
According to arrest warrant affidavits, Byrd supplied McDonald with some cocaine he sold to undercover ATF agents and McDonald told the agents Byrd could also get them firearms.
When an undercover ATF special agent asked McDonald about President Barack Obama’s visit to Hartford, McDonald said he was outside the Capitol during the president’s visit “smoking a ‘blunt’” or marijuana cigarette, according to an affidavit.
McDonald approached one officer patrolling the Kahoots parking lot in an unmarked car and told the officer he was the manager of the club and that he worked for the commerce committee at the Capitol. Later, he told undercover agents that he would “approach police officers with cocaine on his person, and not worry about it because the police think he is doing his job.”
The undercover agents also attempted to buy an AR-15 from McDonald who claimed his source showed him “a photograph of a military-style AR-15 with a scope, flashlight and banana clip.”
Berger wrote a letter to the court to “strongly recommend that the Court see in its wisdom to grant relief to Jon.”
In his own letter to the judge, McDonald said he hid an addiction to painkillers while working at the Capitol. He said working at Kahoots introduced him to cocaine.
“My use spiraled out of control, but I was never selling drugs for profit. I acquired cocaine for those officers so that I could do some of it for free,” McDonald wrote. “I have never fired, never mind held a gun in my life. All of the time I was involved with those officers I was intimidated and way out of my depth. It is a great point of shame for me that I was able to even speak of guns after seeing the parents of the Sandy Hook victims at the Capitol during last year’s session.”
Update: This article was updated to clarify the role of assistant clerks, a temporary or sessional position.
Update: The Manchester Journal-Inquirer reports McDonald pleaded guilty and received a sentence of 13 months in jail and three years of probation.