HARTFORD — The retrial process on first-degree larceny charges for Ernest E. Newton of Bridgeport over his failed 2012 bid to regain a seat in the General Assembly began on Wednesday, with a minute-and-a-half appearance in arraignment court here that set a trial date for October.

But minutes before, in an interview outside the courtroom of Superior Court Judge Carl E. Taylor, Newton - a former longtime Bridgeport lawmaker who served five years in prison on federal corruption charges - and his public defender charged that he is being pursued criminally for an alleged campaign-finance violation worth a few hundred dollars, while Gov. Dannel P. Malloy used hundreds of thousands of dollars in illegal political contributions.

“I’d rather die standing up than die lying down,” Newton said of his three-year-plus battle over $500 that abruptly appeared in his campaign treasury in 2012, at a time when he was short of the contributions needed to access the state’s public-financing system. “All we want is to be treated fairly and this is why so many people have problems with our justice system: because it’s unfair and this is a prime example.”

“The governor and the Democratic Central Committee, with the money that was misappropriated and being investigated by the (State) Elections Enforcement Commission, the recent enforcement of that with a contribution of $325,000 to stop the investigation, well we’re talking about hundreds of thousands of dollars,” said Assistant Public Defender John L. Stawicki. “With Ernie they are claiming that he somehow falsely contributed $500 and they make a criminal matter out of it, when it should have also been Elections Enforcement, but why are they after Ernie for a small amount and the governor gets let off the hook?”

Newton faces two B-felony larceny charges and two charges of violating state election law under the pending case. He was given more than $80,000 in his attempt to win re-election to the state Senate, but lost in a three-way primary. The State Elections Enforcement Commission later accused him of persuading five campaign workers to claim they each gave his campaign $100 in order to meet the $15,000 individual fundraising threshold.

kdixon@ctpost.com;