BOSTON (AP) - Former Massachusetts House Speaker Salvatore
DiMasi was convicted Wednesday in a scheme to steer two state
contracts worth $17.5 million to a software firm in exchange for
payments to the powerful lawmaker and two of his close friends.
A visibly distraught DiMasi turned to hug his crying wife and
stepdaughter after the verdict was read. He was convicted of
conspiracy, extortion and theft of honest services by fraud.
Also convicted of conspiracy and fraud was lobbyist Richard
McDonough. Accountant Richard Vitale was acquitted. Both are close
associates of DiMasi. A fourth man, former software salesman Joseph
Lally, pleaded guilty before trial and testified against the
DiMasi, a Democrat, who resigned in January 2009, was the third
consecutive House Speaker to leave office under an ethics cloud.
DiMasi says federal prosecutors didn't prove their corruption case
against him and he'll appeal his conviction.
Prosecutors said DiMasi used his position as one of the state's
most powerful politicians to assure that the Cognos firm received
the software contracts. In exchange, prosecutors said DiMasi
received $65,000 in payments funneled through a law associate,
while McDonough and Vitale received hundreds of thousands of
dollars in payments disguised as lobbying or consulting fees.
Defense attorneys said the payments were legitimate and were not
made in exchange for official actions by DiMasi, a key element of
the federal "theft of honest services" statute which has faced
recent court challenges.
Vitale's attorney Martin Weinberg said it was a bittersweet
outcome for his client, an "enormously decent" man, because the
three men are good friends.
Defense attorneys are certain to appeal the verdicts, and the
appeals process could be lengthy. One possible avenue of appeal
could be to revisit the federal "theft of honest services"
statute, which has been criticized as overly broad by some defense
DiMasi and McDonough are free until Aug. 18 sentencing, but
can't leave New England.
U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz said she'll seek "significant jail
time." The most serious counts carry a maximum 20 years.