Explosive DiMasi Corruption Trial Set To Begin

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Witnesses all the way up to Gov. Deval Patrick may be called to testify in the corruption trial of former House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi and two other co-defendants charged with using DiMasi’s influence to enrich themselves by rigging state contracts.

Jury selection begins at federal court Tuesday in what could be an explosive look into lobbying and influence peddling on Beacon Hill.

WBUR's David Boeri joined Morning Edition Tuesday to discuss the trial.

Deborah Becker: You call this trial explosive. Why?

David Boeri: Take a look at the lists of 160 prominent witnesses that have been presented by the prosecution and the defense. They're listed by name and town of residence.

Here's one: Deval Patrick, of Milton. Then you've got Robert DeLeo, of State House, Boston. Therese Murray, of State House, Boston. And off we go from there through scores of legislators, cabinet secretaries, aides and lobbyists.

It's important to note — and the Patrick administration has been quick to point out — that no one else is accused of wrongdoing here. But the elementary maxim of political wisdom is that you don't want to testify at a trial about corruption, even if you have not been accused.

Tell us again about the basic scheme alleged by the federal prosecutors.

This is what prosecutors call a kickback scheme. The allegation here is that the salesman for a software company in Burlington called Cognos conspired with DiMasi and two of his associates to use DiMasi’s influence to steer contracts worth $17.5 million to Cognos. In return, DiMasi received $65,000 funneled Cognos to him through one of his law associates, and the other two co-defendants made hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Not a lot of money, though, really.

On the surface, it appears that DiMasi allegedly benefited least of all — it's a relatively modest amount.

There were several rulings as to what could be used as evidence, what the witness list might be most recently regarding this corruption trial. What do we know about these rulings and about how the tone of this case might be conducted?

Certainly for DiMasi and the others, a critical attempt was made to stop one of their former co-defendants, Joseph Lally Jr., from testifying against them. He has plead guilty, he has reached a plea deal with federal prosecutors, and he's received a light sentence. Lally is the sales agent that was pushing the Cognos contracts. He made something like $2.8 million, and it is alleged that he was the one that created this sham consulting agreement with a legal associate of DiMasi's who did no work for the company, but funneled money routinely, that $65,000, to DiMasi.

How long do you think this trial might take, and at the end of it, are we saying that the former House speaker will be either presumably innocent or guilty in this, and would he go to jail?

Lawyers are saying it's going to take six weeks — it could be long, it could be dull at times, it could be sensational depending on who shows up, including the governor. At the end, DiMasi is facing jail time.

I was with him when he left court after receiving more bad news from the judge the other day. He was with his lawyers. He pushed the button in the elevator to go up. His lawyers told him, "No, we're going down." We got in, and there was a sad look on his face, and with a smile, he said, "I used to be on my way up."

This program aired on April 26, 2011.

Headshot of David Boeri

David Boeri Senior Reporter
Now retired, David Boeri was a senior reporter at WBUR.



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