BOSTON — Joseph Lally, a key witness in the federal corruption trial of former Massachusetts House Speaker Salvatore Dimasi, is due back on the stand Friday for his last day of testimony.
According to testimony on Thursday, Lally was furious at co-defendant Richard McDonough in the months prior to the trial, at one point firing off an expletive-laden email about him.
The witness, former software salesman Joseph Lally, pleaded guilty in the case and agreed to testify against the others in exchange for a possible lighter prison sentence. DiMasi, McDonough and a third defendant, Richard Vitale, have pleaded not guilty to charges they schemed to use DiMasi’s Statehouse clout to steer two state contracts worth a combined $17.5 million to the software firm Cognos in exchange for kickbacks.
On Thursday, a defense lawyer introduced an August 2010 email that Lally sent to Vitale, an accountant and close friend of DiMasi.
“If I never see McDonough again, it will be too soon,” Lally wrote, using several obscenities in the email to describe McDonough, a Beacon Hill lobbyist and also a close friend of DiMasi. Lally said he was angry that McDonough had not given him a share of a fee from a client whom Lally had introduced to the lobbyist years earlier.
The email was written when all four men were under indictment and before Lally changed his plea.
After detailing the alleged scheme for prosecutors Wednesday, Lally was subjected Thursday to a day of withering cross-examination from defense attorneys intent on questioning his motives for testifying and damaging his credibility by portraying him as a liar, tax cheat, compulsive gambler and manipulative salesman who would say or do anything to close a deal.
While conceding that he’d been dishonest in the past, Lally repeatedly insisted that he was telling the truth at the trial.
“I have not lied since I stepped into this courtroom,” Lally said.
While Lally remained largely composed during the cross-examination, there were moments of tension. When Vitale’s lawyer, Thomas Dreschler, accused Lally of contradicting some testimony he gave Wednesday, Lally denied doing so and shot back: “We didn’t seem to be in the same courtroom yesterday, counselor.”
On another occasion, DiMasi’s lawyer, William Cintolo, suggested that Lally was trying to speak to the jury instead of answering questions. U.S. District Court Judge Mark Wolf told Lally to only answer the questions being asked but also frequently admonished lawyers to allow the witness time to answer before asking another question.
Lally acknowledged having forged checks from a previous employer in the 1990s and admitted that he had once tried to avoid paying Massachusetts sales taxes on a boat by saying it would be moored in Rhode Island.
Lally also readily conceded his gambling habit, acknowledging that he had lost huge sums of money betting on sports and at casinos. But he also had successes, testifying that he made $275,000 in 2 1/2 hours at the Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut.
Asked why he had failed to include a $70,000 line of credit in an application for government assistance in paying his legal bills, Lally said he was “embarrassed” because he had borrowed the money to pay off a debt to a Las Vegas casino.
When Dreschler brought up the name of a bookie, Lally drew laughter from the courtroom by saying that it was McDonough who had introduced him to the bookie. That prompted Dreschler to ask sarcastically if McDonough gave Lally any other advice, such as what kind of car to buy.
“Actually, he did,” responded Lally.
Much of Cintolo’s questioning focused on Lally’s relationship with DiMasi, with the lawyer suggesting that Lally exaggerated the extent of his friendship with the speaker to impress Cognos. Lally said he rarely called DiMasi and could not recall a time when he was alone in the same room with DiMasi.
Dreschler introduced phone records to challenge a claim Lally made in a June 12, 2006, email that had been introduced as evidence by prosecutors. In the email to a Cognos associate, Lally said he had just ended a phone call with McDonough regarding payments to a DiMasi law associate – money that was allegedly being funneled to DiMasi.
But the phone records appeared to show that Lally had not made or received a call from McDonough in the previous five days. Lally testified that he may have used the phrase `just got off the phone’ to create a sense of urgency about the request.