WATERBURY—To the extent that such events can be fixed in time, the moment Mayor Philip A. Giordano's obsession with sex jumped from back-alley gossip to pressing political business occurred at the end of a corny downtown Christmas pageant.
Giordano backers, the plain-spoken Italian-Americans who then ran the city, were walking back to city hall when the city's Republican chairman, Mike Stolfi, hemmed and hawed his way into the presence of Giordano's father-in-law, a stocky builder and bank director from Long Island named Salvatore Trovato.
That got Trovato's attention.
``Your son-in-law is out carousing at night. It is going to get him in trouble. There are a lot of people who support him and have put their reputation on the line with his. Maybe you can talk some sense into him.''
It was out. Finally.
Stolfi was politic but wildly understated. The mayor would be accused of raping children, not carousing. But there was no doubting Stolfi's sincerity. You don't make up that kind of stuff when you're talking to the father of Giordano's wife, the young woman who, at that moment, in November 1999, was resting at home after delivering the mayor's third son.
Giordano, for his part, was characteristically oblivious to the nervous conversation about him.
So far, it had been the mayor's kind of day. Children chased a perspiring Santa. Bob Mobilio's Brass on Brass Combo belted out holiday favorites. Giordano stood above it all, beaming at 1,000 constituents from atop a reviewing stand. As always, he was the natty focus of all attention in a down-at-the-heels lunch-bucket town.
His face was tanned. His scalp showed the luxurious promise of a prescription hair thickener. And, at just the right moment, with a manicured finger, he flicked the switch that illuminated the city green.
Actually, he flicked a fake switch. Men with the real switches hid beneath the city's Christmas tree or behind light poles, waiting for the signal.
Even though the lights sparkled on cue, it was a little hard to get into the spirit. Around the green, dark windows on closed businesses stared blankly at would-be shoppers. And it was warm out. Giordano liked to light the Christmas tree early so he could get out of town just before Thanksgiving.
Stolfi had to wait for a reply because the mayor's father-in-law needed time to think things through.
``I don't think you're out of line,'' Trovato said finally. ``Maybe I ought to talk with him.''
But it was too late for talk.
What Stolfi referred to as Giordano's carousing was actually a perverse obsession with sex and a spiraling affinity for Waterbury's surreal street culture of hookers and hard drugs. Less than two years later, the mayor would be charged with the most heinous of crimes -- the repeated rape of the 9- and 11-year-old daughters of two drug-addicted prostitutes. One of the child victims is the older half-sister of a boy Giordano is accused of fathering in 1993.
During two campaigns for the state House and three for mayor, Giordano portrayed himself as the Brass City's own Mr. Smith, a sharp young lawyer with a pretty young wife, three beautiful boys and an impressive resume. But evidence unearthed since his arrest last summer, along with a close look at Giordano's personal and political history, shows that the recent eruption of Connecticut's most salacious political scandal was many years in the making.
As Giordano, now 38, evolved over the decades from amiable teenage burnout to Republican U.S. Senate nominee to accused rapist, he methodically constructed a shell of respectability around an increasingly rotten core.
He managed to accumulate degrees and titles -- Marine, lawyer, legislator, mayor. But as his facade of success grew more elaborate, his internal pathology accelerated. His growing prestige masked his growing sexual obsessions, his explosive anger, his ludicrous self-aggrandizing.
At each step of his climb, he used his new power to meet and manipulate women. During his first political job as an investigator in the city corporation counsel's office, colleagues suspected that he had made advances on a woman suing the city over the death of her 6-year-old son. As a young lawyer in the early 1990s, he was accused of taking his fee in sex from a woman he represented in a child custody dispute.
As mayor, he used his cellphone to stalk women everywhere -- wives, drug addicts, a 16-year-old girl applying for a summer job with the city -- anything to satisfy his bizarre urges.
He also roared around town on his Harley, ordered city department heads to stand in his presence, became enraged when he didn't get his way. He was often inexplicably absent from his office even as he took the city to the brink of bankruptcy. He developed an unusually close relationship with the mob-linked head of a large construction firm.
And yet, as wanton and reckless as his behavior became, when Giordano decided to run for U.S. Senate against the hugely popular incumbent Joe Lieberman last fall, nobody could stop him. Not the leaders of the state Republican Party, who warned of a colossal embarrassment. Not even Gov. John G. Rowland, a fellow Waterbury native who told Giordano flat-out that a Senate campaign was ``crazy.''
Everyone seemed to know that Giordano was, as the governor said privately, a ``bad guy.'' Even newly elected President George W. Bush seemed to know it when he visited Waterbury in April, five months after Giordano's crushing loss to Lieberman. Bush's advance team, apparently armed with inside information of a federal corruption investigation, went to extraordinary lengths to keep the mayor away from the president.
But somehow, in Giordano's case, all the checks and balances that normally constrain a public official's behavior failed. Ultimately, it would take the FBI six months of wiretapping the mayor's cellphone conversations to stumble upon the shocking evidence of his alleged assaults against the two young girls.
Nothing, and no one, it seems, could stop Giordano's inexorable implosion until he had left a pile of victims -- his parents, his wife, his children, the children of Waterbury, Waterbury itself.
But then, not much had ever stopped him.
Just two months after drug-addled prostitute Gigi Jones says she gave birth to Giordano's son in 1993, he married the wealthy Dawn Trovato at New York City's hallowed St. Patrick's Cathedral. During the honeymoon that followed, Dawn's sister joined the happy couple on the slopes of Lake Tahoe and was killed in a skiing accident. Eight months later, just weeks into his first run for political office, a would-be constituent's bulldog locked its jaw into Giordano's left arm, hospitalizing him with a 103-degree fever.
Phil Giordano had a motto: ``Never say die. Never say no. Never give up.''
And his story has a moral: Determined self-delusion can go a very long way.
Until you get caught.
There was nothing in Giordano's early life to suggest he was headed for anything but anonymity. At two parochial grammar schools he was a C or B student who stayed out of trouble. His four years at Holy Cross High School were remarkable for what he didn't do: graduate with his class in 1981.
It was punishment for getting caught smoking marijuana in a Jeep affectionately known as ``The Magic Bus.'' Giordano wasn't the first youngster to experiment with drugs, but he seemed a little more serious about it than some others. The phrase beneath his yearbook picture: ``Without chemicals, life would be impossible.''
``He was an amiable burnout,'' said classmate David Zunski, now a school psychologist, ``someone who seemed not to take things seriously at all.''
That generally shared view seems odd when measured against the drive displayed by Giordano's parents, immigrants from Italy who worked hard to get to the United States and harder still to make good lives for their children.
Rocco Giordano was an Italian shoemaker and his wife, Olimpia, was an orphan raised in a church home. After their wedding, an arranged affair, the couple began a circuitous voyage to Waterbury, where Rocco had an uncle. They stopped first in Caracas, Venezuela. Their son, Philip, was born there in 1963, two years after his sister, Maria.
Not long after, Rocco and Olimpia reached Waterbury. They bought their first home in 1969. It was a tiny place on Griggs Street, a tough neighborhood of older homes that climbs straight up the city's impossibly steep northeast side. Their backyard looked down on the valley that cuts the city in two, on the gray patched roof of the rolling mill wedged up hard against Giordano's first school, the squat, square St. Lucy's. Smoke from the mill stacks had to rise to reach Giordano's bedroom window. His younger brother, Rocco, was born in 1971.
Griggs is a turn off North Main Street, and by the time the Giordanos moved in, the North End's hilly mix of saloons and heavy industry showed signs of age. The city's backbone, manufacturing, was failing and the working-class Italian families that anchored the neighborhood were migrating to more prosperous areas. The Giordanos, working different factory shifts so as not to neglect the children, eventually did the same. As Phil entered the sixth grade, his family jumped to the middle class: the Town Plot section on Waterbury's southwest side.
Town Plot is 3 miles from the North End, but it might as well be in a different time zone. North Waterbury was gray, gritty homes on sharp hillsides above noisy mills. Town Plot was, and is, split levels, vinyl siding and flat lawns around the Waterbury Country Club. The Giordanos bought a corner lot down the street from Holy Cross High School. Everything seemed set for the children to excel.
It was a well-ordered home. The children had chores. Like a lot of old-world Italian families, the Giordanos kept a second kitchen in the basement, and it opened on a lush, if tiny, backyard garden. Rocco Sr. pulled weeds and trimmed shrubs early weekend mornings, and on Sundays, guests got a glass of homemade red wine.
``If you were invited to Sunday dinner, you got something special with Olimpia's cooking,'' a family friend said.
Philip Giordano drifted through high school. Holy Cross regularly produces hometown athletes and aspiring pols, but Giordano wasn't shaping up as either. He was ``Philbert,'' the slightly pudgy kid near the beer keg at parties -- when he wasn't smoking pot in the bushes. He made the football team, but didn't play.
``He was a bench rider,'' classmate Gary Iannicelli said. ``He was a big party guy in high school, a wise guy.''
Classmate James Fried was more blunt: ``He was like our class's village idiot. They wouldn't let him walk across the stage for his diploma.''
Talk like that hurt, although it is not clear now whom it hurt more, Giordano or his parents. What followed suggests that someone decided things had to change. The future mayor enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps. His military record shows Giordano served from his high school graduation until 1985 as a bulk-fuel man on a troop transport in Korea. It wasn't exactly glamorous, but he returned home a changed man.
He enrolled at Mattatuck Community College in Waterbury, then transferred to the University of Connecticut, where he obtained an undergraduate degree in political science a year early in August 1988. Then came the Thomas M. Cooley Law School in Lansing, Mich. In Lansing, he met Teresa Carlson. They became serious, and during school breaks he introduced her around town as his fiancee.
While he awaited admission to the bar -- and stayed in touch with Carlson -- Giordano's father got him a patronage job through a tailor who hailed from the same small town, Frijento, Italy, and had a cousin in the city corporation counsel's office. Giordano was hired as an investigator assigned to work with lawyers in the city legal department; it was his first taste of professional politics.
It was also his answer to his snooty high school classmates: two degrees, a job and a promising career.
``Holy Cross said I'd never amount to anything,'' Giordano crowed at his 10th high school reunion at the Aqua Turf in Southington, as he passed out his business cards. ``Ha!''
As an investigator, his work was satisfactory. He was diligent. He did what he was told, like any other eager-to-please young lawyer. In fact, the big knock on the future mayor was his attire. A lawyer involved with Giordano in a protracted case said he wore a shiny black shirt to court every day.
``We joked that his skin may never have been touched by natural fiber,'' the lawyer said.
The case turned on a 6-year-old boy who had sneaked off from a city-run after-school program to go sledding with friends. The child zipped down an icy driveway and died in traffic. The boy's mother, a 26-year-old divorcee, hired a lawyer to argue that school supervisors should have kept track of the child.
Ironically, the lawyers for the child's mother decided that she, too, was an inappropriate dresser. They worried that the mother's spiked heels and ankle bracelet would make it hard for a disapproving jury of Waterbury citizens to visualize her as a bereaved parent.
Everyone quickly forgot what everyone else was wearing when lawyers learned well into the often-delayed trial that Giordano and the boy's mother were sharing something more than polite good mornings in the hallway. Giordano had the woman's telephone number. He claimed she gave it to him. She claimed he talked it out of her. The issue was not pursued, and not long after, the case was settled.
Teresa Carlson was still around when Giordano passed the bar and opened an office in a three-family home on West Main Street. She was not around, apparently, the day Giordano decided to shop for office furniture at Discount Desk, which had opened in the now-closed mill complex just below the first Giordano home on Griggs Street. Lori LaPorta was around.
LaPorta, a sales clerk, helped Giordano work through his furniture needs, and that was the end of Teresa Carlson. Carlson (today, coincidentally, a supervisory FBI agent in charge of white-collar crime in Alabama) was out of Giordano's life so quickly and completely that he couldn't be bothered to mail her personal things to Michigan. Carlson was said by acquaintances to be devastated.
Incidents such as Carlson's dismissal had acquaintances paying attention to Giordano's love life. He moved effortlessly between women. The fact that he was involved with one did not inhibit his pursuit of another. Stories circulated among Waterbury professionals about his hunts for companionship.
Giordano was becoming a fixture at nightspots, a picture of intensity at the end of the bar, transfixed by companions who never seemed to be LaPorta. No one ever knew what he discussed.
``I didn't want to know,'' a friend said. ``I figured it's their business; they're adults.''
``I thought Phil was really cool,'' the friend said. ``He was a young guy, a lawyer and an ex-Marine who rode a Harley and wore real sharp clothes. He always looked good. Shoes polished, all that. It takes a lot of work to do that all the time.''
Giordano had a roving eye, a lot of his friends thought. So what? But one friend said what Giordano possessed might better be called a hungry eye.
``He looked at women like they were lunch meat,'' he said.
The law practice gave Giordano cachet on the nightclub circuit, but it wasn't much of a career. For that matter, it wasn't even much of an office. There was no place for clients to park at the dowdy three-decker that sat almost on the shoulder of busy West Main Street.
``It was regular stuff,'' another lawyer said of the practice. ``Real estate closings, maybe a divorce here and there. I don't even remember him, to tell you the truth. He never came around the courthouse. I can't think of anyone who crossed paths with him. The guy really came out of nowhere.''
One thing the practice did was keep Giordano in touch with two troubled girls he met while working the evening shift in the dairy department at Pathmark supermarket in the late 1980s, just as he was set to go off to law school.
The slim, handsome ex-Marine was a diligent, personable guy with a good sense of humor, and co-workers Gigi Jones and Amy Blake, both in their late teens, were enthralled. Giordano, slightly older, felt a special attraction to Jones. She was good-looking. She was flirtatious. And, her friends say, she was wild.
In the sweltering August darkness immediately after Giordano's arrest this summer, the prostitutes clustered, as they always do, along the guardrails and sidewalks on the hill, below St. Lucy's and Griggs Street and Discount Desk and all the other landmarks of Giordano's early life. This is their shared turf, the place -- both literally and psychologically -- where Giordano gave vent to the darker side of his nature.
These particular women of the night are not, by any stretch of the mind, ``call girls'' or ``escorts'' or whatever euphemism commonly passes for hookers. On this night, one wears a colostomy bag, visible beneath her gauzy black skirt. Another appears to be adorned in something resembling Kabuki makeup, her dark skin aglow with white powder. On closer inspection, it turns out to be common baby powder liberally applied in some kind of last-ditch, low-cost effort to mask the open sores that cover the woman's face and neck.
The women all claim to know Giordano, some since high school and even before. And if you understand the smallness of Waterbury -- the geographical proximity of things, but also the interconnecting families of merchants and cops and politicians and prostitutes and drug addicts -- the claim is not at all far-fetched.
Although Gigi Jones is also in jail now, charged with providing her young daughter and niece to the mayor for sex, it is here that she and the other human ware along the guardrails maintained their decadelong familiarity with Giordano. He'd frequently drive into the neighborhood on his Harley or in his green 1988 Jaguar. He'd stop and open the door, and one would jump in.
These working girls knew of Giordano as the guy with an insatiable hunger for sex. Raw sex, the girls say. Dirty sex. And they say he liked his females young. ``As young as you can get them,'' one prostitute recalls the mayor saying.
There were other, more respectable venues for Giordano's obsessions throughout the 1990s. The ``companionship and massage'' services he called on the city's dime. Or the regular downtown watering holes -- The Brass Horse or other bars thick with college kids -- where he'd troll for young co-eds, offering to buy them $500 dresses at Nordstrom and a fancy dinner out in exchange for a date.
``He made Clinton look like an amateur,'' one observer said.
``He viewed the world through his zipper,'' said a ranking firefighter.
But the girls on the guardrail say that whatever Phil may have found in the mainstream bars down the hill, he never stopped coming up North Main Street to find Gigi. After working together at Pathmark, their lives took them in opposite directions -- Phil on the road to Being Somebody, Gigi to drugs and tricks. But Phil always came looking for her. He had deep pockets. He was good to her family. He was good to her. When she got pinched for prostitution in 1992, Phil defended her in court.
Amy Blake, too, stayed in contact with Giordano after their fateful Pathmark days. She also descended into the drug culture of Waterbury's meaner streets. And when she needed a lawyer to represent her in a child custody dispute, Giordano was only too willing. ``He said she wouldn't have to pay for some of the legal bill if she had sex with him,'' Blake's husband said recently. ``She said he also offered her money.''
As difficult as it now is to believe, nothing about Giordano's repeated adventures in street sex prevented him from aggressively assembling his alternate persona: A Young Man With a Future in Politics. By the early '90s, his resume was intact; all he needed was an opportunity.
In the summer of 1993, fate struck. A drunken driver killed the state legislator from the Giordanos' Town Plot district, and Giordano threw himself into the race against the dead man's son. The son had the sympathy vote, but Giordano had a high-voltage smile and uncoiled energy. He might have won, were it not for that bulldog bite that laid him up at the height of the campaign.
Giordano's defeat in the special election is significant not for its political ripples, but for the strange and frightening aspect of his psyche it revealed immediately afterward.
Several witnesses recounted the incident: As the polls were about to close on the night of the Aug. 17 special election, a crowd of Giordano supporters drifted back to Phil's law office to thank him for his terrific effort. But Giordano was still mining 11th-hour votes among the raised ranches of Town Plot. Only upon arriving at the gathering did he learn of his loss. As people watched from the front porch, Giordano had what one onlooker described as ``a major meltdown, screaming and swearing, totally out of control ... completely out of proportion. I was shocked. ... Looking back, I guess this was a warning sign that things weren't what they seemed to be with Phil.''
The stunned crowd melted away, embarrassed and unnerved by the spectacle of Giordano's rage. Giordano's mother had to take her son aside for 20 minutes to calm him down. He later showed up at his opponent's victory party, his 100-watt smile firmly back in place.
Contributing to his hot temper that night might have been the politically explosive secret he was keeping: All the while he was making his first valiant try for public office, prostitute Gigi Jones was pregnant with the child she would later tell state child welfare investigators is Giordano's.
Perhaps Giordano had not yet become adept at compartmentalizing the wildly divergent aspects of his life. He would soon become a master.
Just a month or two after that first election defeat in August, the respectable Phil took a quantum leap forward. He met Dawn Trovato, the 27-year-old daughter of a rich, Long Island construction magnate. Giordano and a friend were in Florida on a car-buying trip, staying at a friend's condominium in Palm Beach. Dawn was vacationing nearby in one of two condos her father owned. They met at a gym.
Dawn was as interested in Phil as he was in her, and she wasn't shy about showing it. She hired a plane to fly him to Atlantic City for a gambling weekend. She sent him tins of nuts with reminders that ``I'm nuts about you.'' She invited him to sporting events, including the Kentucky Derby, where her father had box seats at Churchill Downs.
That December, Jones gave birth to a son. State child welfare records, which reflect her claim of paternity against Giordano, also record that the baby was born seven weeks premature and tested positive for cocaine.
Just two months later, in February, Giordano married Dawn at St. Patrick's Cathedral in Manhattan, where family and friends gathered for a storybook wedding, with an equally fancy reception at Tavern on the Green in Central Park.
After a weeklong honeymoon in Hawaii, the newlyweds stopped at Lake Tahoe on the way home to ski with Dawn's sisters, including 14-year-old Linda. On Feb. 16, after Linda had some basic lessons from her new brother-in-law and a dozen successful runs on a learner's slope, Phil and Dawn took Linda on the ``Sugar and Spice'' beginner's trail.
While skiing near Dawn, Linda found she couldn't turn. She screamed, glided straight past two large ``SLOW'' signs and fell off a bank, landing headfirst on a large rock. Phil, the first to reach her, could do nothing to help her. Linda died a few days later from massive brain injuries.
The death of their daughter so wounded Antoinette and Salvatore Trovato that Antoinette couldn't bear to keep living in the same Long Island house where she and Sal had raised the girls. They moved into another home.
Back home in Waterbury, the newly married Giordano whipsawed between the two women who occupied the two sides of his being. Dawn had everything a kid from a mill town wanted, and Gigi had something he probably couldn't explain -- that wildness her friends always speak of. He was deep into a double life that, in a quick succession of years, would see him elected to the coveted Town Plot legislative seat in November 1994, father three sons with Dawn and win three consecutive terms as mayor of Waterbury in 1995, 1997 and 1999.
Outwardly, the aimless chump from Holy Cross was transformed; Mayor Giordano always wore a sharp suit and a smiling confidence. But the shell wasn't seamless.
Dawn, who hated being the political wife, made frequent trips to her parents' house on Long Island and their properties in Florida, and was often seen around the swimming pool at the Waterbury Country Club. Three miles away, Jones' son was becoming the ``spitting image'' of Giordano, according to those who've seen him. Jones, who also had an older daughter by another man, continued her descent into the netherworld of drugs and prostitution.
Giordano's sexual escapades around town reached legendary status, and talk spread that he was ``fond of the white powder.'' But while a cocaine high might help explain how Giordano juggled his schizoid existence, none of the scores of people interviewed for this story directly observed him doing cocaine.
There was, however, a bizarre occurrence at his first mayoral inauguration in 1996.
After taking his oath of office at city hall, Giordano and his guests moved to the Mattatuck Museum for a reception. As the crowd circulated among the accumulated heritage of western Connecticut, a Giordano campaign volunteer, apparently misidentifying a photographer on assignment for the Waterbury Republican-American newspaper, handed the photographer a plastic bag containing powdered cocaine. The terrified, mystified photographer told his boss, who called the police. The aide was arrested.
Professing great moral indignity, Giordano forcefully told the public he had ``absolutely zero tolerance for drugs.''
There are two kinds of mayors in Connecticut. There are holders of symbolic offices, such as the mayor of Hartford, where political power lies in the city council. Then there are cities like Waterbury, where the mayor -- who can hand out millions to contractors and controls scores of patronage jobs -- is the supreme political power, evoking a mix of reverence and fear that borders on worship. At age 32, Giordano swaggered into office.
Taking the measure of the mayor's suite in the Chase Building -- a municipal edifice that could have been erected on a Hollywood back lot -- it seemed, initially at least, that he had achieved his political ambition.
With an entourage befitting his new rank, Giordano embarked on a grand tour to introduce himself to city department heads. They rose when he entered the room, having been instructed to do so by William Cugno, the retired Army officer Giordano anointed chief of staff.
``The mayor was a very vain individual,'' confides an agency director.
But it was soon clear, after the inaugural's excitement wore off, that Giordano viewed the office of mayor much the same as he did that of Town Plot's state representative -- a pit stop on the road to grander political vistas.
Giordano said as much early in his first term when a reporter arrived to chronicle what the city could expect under new leadership.
Mayor? Giordano wasn't about to limit himself. What about vice president, he asked the reporter. And the new mayor made it clear that vice president was a concession he was willing to make only due to a Constitutional quirk. He couldn't be president because he had been born abroad to foreign parents. He said it with a straight face.
Giordano's enthusiasm for being mayor disappeared almost as soon as his tenure began. If he agreed to a meeting, he invariably was late. Department heads joked that, on Fridays, they had to ambush Giordano by noon if they wanted his attention. He delegated the budget.
``He acted as if the job was beneath him,'' an alderman said. ``He just couldn't be bothered with details.''
Fitness buffs at a local health club deduced that Giordano was spending a chunk of his days exercising -- the mayor was the guy working out in cap and sunglasses.
Had taxpayers been aware of what Giordano was doing when he applied himself, they might have wished he spent even more time on his physique. He became the driving force in deals that would return to haunt the city.
One of them involved Joseph Pontoriero.
Pontoriero is a well-to-do Greenwich builder and the owner of Worth Construction of Bethel. Worth got a $97 million contract to build Waterbury a new sewage treatment plant, a puzzling contract in view of Worth's business dealings elsewhere.
Pontoriero's name surfaced in 1987 in federal court in New York in what became known as the Commission Case -- the 1987 trial of Genovese crime family boss Anthony ``Fat Tony'' Salerno and other members of what the FBI identified as the Mafia's policy-making commission. An FBI agent testified that Pontoriero had been a guest at Salerno's club, the Palma Boys Social Club in Manhattan.
``Mr. Pontoriero has been there in the club at least 10 times,'' the agent testified.
Ten years later, authorities in New Jersey tried to block Pontoriero from a job because Worth Construction appeared to have been involved with gangsters while doing work in Atlantic City. In 1998, Worth was barred from working on schools in New York City after Pontoriero refused to answer questions about his company's apparent ties to gangsters.
When Waterbury's board of alderman questioned the sewage plant deal after learning of developments in New York and New Jersey, Giordano rose to Pontoriero's defense. And, because of the political strength of the mayor's office, he prevailed. By then, it was clear that Giordano had developed a curiously close relationship with Pontoriero.
The two spoke by telephone as many as a half dozen times a day. To some in city hall, it seemed Pontoriero -- old enough to be Giordano's father -- had become a mayoral confidant and adviser. There are suggestions, some city hall insiders say, that Pontoriero was providing advice on subjects as diverse as politics and manicures.
Even as Giordano worked on the city's business, there continued to be troubling incidents -- such as the inaugural's cocaine episode -- that plagued his administration. They were events that lurked just beyond the electorate's peripheral vision, but they nonetheless nagged at political insiders. Some even became public.
Someone circulated an anonymous flier reporting that Giordano was the secret father of a mixed-race daughter, apparently a confused reference to Gigi Jones' son. He denied it.
A police officer discovered Giordano and a city employee -- a young woman -- in a borrowed car in the parking lot of a vacant Cheshire manufacturing plant on a Sunday afternoon. He said he was counseling her.
Giordano's response was indignation and the production of a new campaign photograph. He posed with his family, feeding the baby a bottle.
The monthly Waterbury Observer named him ``Most Honest Politician'' and ``Most Powerful Man in Waterbury.''
He won a second term in 1997.
In short order, he pushed through a change order to the sewer plant contract that gave Pontoriero's construction company another $1.1 million to build a dog pound. The cost of the pound was greater, foot for foot, than many typical grammar schools and firehouses.
One day, Giordano asked the police department for a private briefing on a crime that had convulsed the city. A man had beaten a 2-year-old girl to a horrible death. As the officer concluded the briefing, Giordano fiddled with a window blind, the better to watch passersby on the sidewalk. Then, he announced to no one in particular: ``Man. I'd like to f--- her.''
He won a third term in November 1999.
It was getting difficult to ignore the mayor's aggressive behavior concerning women. Even his wife had to nudge him when his leering became noticeable during a New Year's party at the Waterbury Country Club. There was water cooler talk at city hall of ``the girl du jour.''
But Giordano either didn't know or didn't care about his growing reputation for immorality. What followed should not have been a surprise: He decided he could steal straight-laced, family-values czar Joseph I. Lieberman's U.S. Senate seat in the 2000 election.
He even botched the announcement.
After driving to Hartford to inform Gov. Rowland about his decision, Giordano stopped off at the pressroom in the state Capitol to tip reporters. Later that day, when reporters cornered Rowland to question him about the Giordano run, the governor said, with surprising bluntness, that he was against it.
Publicly, Rowland's people will say only that the governor thought a Giordano campaign to unseat Lieberman was quixotic, ill-advised and poorly conceived. Privately, one Rowland aide said the governor repeatedly chose to use the word ``stupid.''
``There were a few things they talked about,'' the aide said, recalling the Rowland-Giordano meeting. ``Number one, Rowland asked him why he wanted to run. And Giordano said, `Because I think I can win.' That immediately turned Rowland off. He said, basically, `What, are you crazy? You can't beat Lieberman. If you had told me you were running because you wanted to increase your name recognition, then maybe I'd buy it. But don't tell me you're running because you're going to win.'''
On the subject of the mayor's philandering, the aide said Rowland, a Waterbury native, was aware only of the incident with the female employee in the parking lot of the Cheshire plant. But privately, another Rowland confidant said, the governor didn't like or trust Giordano.
``The only thing Rowland said was stay away from him,'' the Rowland confidant said. ``He said he was a bad guy. Rowland has his pulse on Waterbury. Rowland didn't say anything specific, but he suspected there were other things going on with Giordano than what met the eye.''
A measure of the governor's animosity toward Giordano is the fact that Republicans were going to oppose his candidacy even though they had no one else to challenge Lieberman. The party even floated the idea, briefly, of cross-endorsing Lieberman.
``There was literally nobody,'' a GOP official said.
Without Rowland, Giordano had no support from his own party. He had to buy his own balloons for the state Republican convention in July 2000. The GOP official said he still hasn't paid the bill.
If he was polishing Senate plans during the day, Giordano apparently had some nights free. A Waterbury motorcyclist recounts an incident outside the Rat Pack Motorcycle Club, where he says Giordano was caught embracing a woman in a parked car. The woman's husband, according to the account, pulled Giordano from the car and pummeled him. When the bruised mayor returned to city hall, he explained away his injuries by saying he'd tripped on a child's toy.
Giordano also had time to lobby to win his friend Pontoriero a major downtown development project. People noticed, given Worth Construction's mob difficulties in New York and New Jersey. The problem for Giordano -- and Worth -- was that the mayor couldn't move the quasi-public Naugatuck Valley Development Corp. the way he could the board of alderman.
Giordano learned that the development corporation was giving the job to someone other than Pontoriero in a telephone call from its executive director. Cathy Awwad, chief of staff during Giordano's third term, overheard the exchange from behind two closed doors.
``He was on the phone,'' she said. ``Screaming.''
``You f---ed me! You have no idea how bad you f---ed me!,'' Awwad recalls hearing the mayor shout. ``I'm gonna f--- you like you f---ed me!''
``I've heard him mad,'' Awwad said. ``But I never heard him through two doors before.''
Lieberman, who in 2000 was running for vice president as well as U.S. Senator, was a no-show during the Senate campaign. Giordano was reduced to debating life-size cardboard images he had made of Lieberman. But he had Pontoriero's support.
``This is going to be our next senator,'' the builder confided to a teller one day when he and the mayor banked together.
By 9 p.m. on Election Day, Giordano had Pontoriero's sympathy.
Dry leaves scattered in front of the mayor's sedan as Giordano, his life about to implode, directed his driver to the parking lot behind a CVS drug store down the street from his law office.
Giordano sat in the car a bit. He climbed out when a second sedan pulled into the lot. An older man exited the second car. Giordano approached him. They shook hands and chatted.
From behind the steering wheel, the mayor's driver asked one of the other passengers, ``What's this about?''
``You don't want to know,'' answered the aide.
``Who is it?'' the driver persisted.
It was on July 12, 2001, that the mayor lost control of the elaborate deceit his life had become. Dirty secrets hidden for so long were finally laid before his public. Perhaps it was fitting that his day was filled with the two troubled girls he had been exploiting ever since they met years before while working after school at a grocery.
July 12 is the day neighbors believe a black sedan -- like the car Giordano drove with the official license plate 1-WBY -- pulled into Amy Blake's suburban driveway in Manchester. It was around dusk. Phone records suggest the neighbors recall the date correctly -- there were three quick calls from Giordano's cellphone to Blake's home just before 6 p.m. that day. The neighbors were always a little leery of odd goings-on at Blake's house. She must have been expecting the visit, they said, because she skipped out of the house and up to the passenger door just as someone inside the car rolled down the window.
She leaned on the door, talking to someone inside for 10, maybe 15 minutes. Then she stepped back and the car pulled away. She spotted a neighbor watching from his yard and announced, ``That was my buddy the mayor of Waterbury. He wanted me to have sex with him.''
A month later, the neighbors saw Blake in her driveway, wearing what looked like a thong and swinging what looked like a meat cleaver. A month after that, she was in a drug treatment program. Then she was in jail for violating her probation.
Earlier on July 12, at precisely 11:54 a.m., on the other side of the state, a call was placed from Giordano's city-issued cellular telephone to Gigi Jones, cocaine addict, prostitute, alleged mother of the mayor's illegitimate son and the wilder of the two girls from the grocery. According to legal papers and two informed sources, the following conversation ensued:
Giordano asked Jones if he could meet her for a sexual encounter. He also asked if she would bring someone else along and he mentioned that person's name. Jones responded that the person Giordano mentioned was celebrating a birthday. When Giordano asked the age of the person -- a girl, it turned out -- Jones replied that she was 9.
The FBI refuses to discuss the conversation or anything else about Giordano. But for the agents eavesdropping, it was a horrific revelation.
Agents had been secretly investigating corruption in Waterbury since Giordano's Senate loss in November. Beginning in February, they monitored hundreds of his often-bizarre conversations through a court-authorized wiretap on his cellular telephone. The July 12 conversation unexpectedly provided the shocking piece of information -- the child's age -- that allowed agents to fully understand the significance of 10 earlier conversations between the mayor and Jones.
Tragically, the bureau deduced, during 11 cryptic conversations between Feb. 24 and July 12, Jones helped Giordano arrange sexual encounters that, under state law, amounted to the sexual assault of a child.
Two children -- Jones' 9-year-old daughter and her 11-year-old niece -- engaged in sexual acts with Giordano, according to a federal indictment against Giordano and Jones. Sometimes, according to the indictment, Giordano was involved with the girls singly, and at other times, together. The sexual assaults took place at Giordano's West Main Street law office, at his Town Plot home, at a condominium rented by friend and city Finance Director Thomas Ariola and, astonishingly, at city hall.
Agents knew from eavesdropping on Giordano's private conversations that he led a bizarre private life. But the discovery of evidence suggesting that he was sexually abusing children was devastating. A corruption investigation became a child abuse case and questions about the safety of the children gave the case a new urgency.
Should agents run in and lock the mayor up to prevent further harm to children? Or was there a way to keep the children safe while protecting a long, expensive and still incomplete corruption investigation?
Anyone paying attention during the spring of 2001 would have noticed that Giordano's political life was turning into a high-speed wreck. Waterbury had fallen into a financial mess so deep the state legislature had to bail it out. With the exception of his curiously aggressive support for an ill-advised municipal energy contract, Giordano seemed to have abdicated. Politically, he had become a pariah. The mayor was blatantly snubbed when President Bush flew in for the April 18 rally. Bush's handlers didn't want him and Giordano in the same photograph.
But the FBI knew from its wiretap that outward signs of Giordano's detachment paled when compared with the growing private record of his compulsions. Sometimes it seemed as if he was using the city's cellphone to fire volleys of calls, some to women apparently chosen at random. His telephone bills show frenzied bursts of calls to women that end as inexplicably as they begin.
He called a married, 28-year-old Waterbury woman 27 times. Her husband was so infuriated that he considered hunting the mayor down. Giordano called a number listed to a 20-year-old New Haven woman 13 times. The New Haven woman said she met Giordano outside a courtroom while she was studying to become a paralegal. She said he offered to help her get a job.
On a single day in May, he called the New Haven woman at 4:34 p.m., the married Waterbury woman at 4:44 p.m., and the New Haven woman again at 5:05. Just before 8 p.m., he called a number used by Jones twice in less than a minute. There were another 20 calls to the phone used by Jones during the middle of June.
He called Blake 10 times in late June and early July. After a 16-year-old Waterbury girl applied for a summer job with the city, her pager number got 33 calls from the mayor's phone during the same period.
A man with another pager number that appears on Giordano's telephone bills remembers a disgusting, late-night page that corresponds with a call placed from the mayor's cellphone. Whoever answered the phone played a pathetic recording about an unorthodox sex act. The man had recently obtained the pager number and could not explain the call.
And Giordano stayed in touch with Pontoriero. Billing records show about 50 calls from his cellphone to Pontoriero's office or Greenwich home between January and mid summer.
Spurred by the intercepted July 12 conversation with Jones, the FBI and U.S. attorney's office hatched a plan to save their case. They would obtain approval from the Department of Justice to briefly delay Giordano's arrest while putting him to work as a cooperating witness. It would prevent possible danger to children and Giordano would become the key actor in an 11th-hour effort to develop incriminating evidence against investigative targets.
The plan was rushed into action.
On July 18, six days after the alarming telephone call, the FBI notified state child welfare officers that it had uncovered a ``high profile'' federal abuse case. It enabled the state to set in motion the legal machinery it would need to place the 9- and 11-year-old girls in protective custody.
That day, Giordano announced at a press conference that he would not run for a fourth term as mayor. He said he had just started coaching his 6-year-old son Philip's T-ball team, and wanted to spend more time with his family. Dawn, however, was notably absent. Giordano went on to deny blame for the city's financial problems. They would have occurred ``even if Jesus Christ had been mayor,'' he declared.
Within days, a federal judge issued an arrest warrant for Guitana Jones. FBI agents arrested and jailed her the following day, Saturday, July 21. State child welfare officers took custody of the children.
For anyone watching, Giordano's behavior got even weirder in late July when he began cooperating. He cooked up flimsy excuses -- he had a stomach virus or had to attend a meeting in Washington, D.C. -- in an effort to explain away unusual absences. He set up odd meetings with associates in efforts to elicit conversations implicating them in corrupt acts.
Among other things, Giordano made an unsuccessful attempt to extract a $25,000 payment from the company behind the municipal energy contract that the mayor was aggressively supporting. He also set up a dinner date with his dear friend Pontoriero.
After the dinner, at 10:30 p.m., Giordano made a lengthy call to his home. Dawn had left Waterbury with their children by 7:45 the next morning, when FBI agents arrested the mayor in New Haven.
The U.S. attorney's office has imposed extraordinary secrecy on the Giordano case, apparently in an effort to protect whatever remains of its corruption investigation. Jones was arraigned in secret after her arrest. The public has been barred from parts of the legal hearings involving Giordano. He is being held in jail without bail, but the government won't say where or under what circumstances.
Late this summer, The Courant learned that Giordano was being held in isolation at the Putnam County jail in Carmel, N.Y. Federal officials will not say whether he has since been moved.
No one has been charged publicly with anything related to municipal corruption. There are suggestions that the bureau's all-consuming involvement in events set in motion by the Sept. 11 terror attacks has moved Waterbury down the bureau's list of priorities.
The federal indictment specifically charges the mayor with two civil rights counts, one count of conspiracy and 11 counts of using a phone to entice or solicit the children for sex. Gigi Jones was charged in the same indictment with conspiracy and 11 counts of using a phone to offer the two children for sex.
Since there are no federal laws against sexual assault, Waterbury State's Attorney John Connelly ordered an investigation of his own. In September, he said he will prosecute Giordano for six counts each of sexual assault, risk of injury to a minor and conspiracy -- if he ever gets his hands on the mayor. Since federal officials won't tell Connelly where Giordano is and won't produce him, Connolly has been unable even to make an arrest.
The Waterbury Green is again aglow with the holiday season. But this year, for the first time since 1996, Philip Giordano did not flick the faux tree-lighting switch. Waterbury elected a new mayor in November. Michael Jarjura, a rotund, balding man, pledged to clean up the city. It won't be easy. The city's finances remain a mess.
But finances may be the least of the damage.
Dawn Giordano and the couple's three young boys moved out of their Town Plot home on Southwind Road, which was being searched by police as they departed, and are said to have joined her parents at their exclusive gated community on Long Island.
Giordano's parents rarely leave the white raised ranch at the corner of Carriage Drive, just across the street from the Waterbury Country Club. The once-proud surname is still on the mailbox out front. But friends say Rocco Giordano is ill with cancer and Olimpia is too ashamed of her son to be seen in public.
Jones is still jailed in a secret location. Neighbors say that just before her arrest, she asked them cryptically, ``Pray for me.'' Her daughter, her son, her niece and several other children from her household remain in the custody of the state.
Giordano is a pariah in a city where some take perverse pride in a colorful lineage of crooked mayors. But stealing money is one thing; sexually assaulting children is another. ``If he did this stuff,'' Stolfi said, ``then he should burn in hell.''
Giordano, who claims he is not guilty and two weeks ago filed motions to dismiss the charges against him, was last seen at a brief bail hearing. His once perennially tanned face is putty-gray. His once lush mane is thinning by the day, probably because he can't get anti-balding drugs in prison. No one knows if there will be a trial, or a plea bargain, or what either side's next legal move will be. If convicted of all charges against him, Giordano's maximum sentence would be life.
And around city hall, ``Philbert'' has a new nickname: ``Pedophil.''