DiMasi Bus Ride Heightens Beacon Hill Worry

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Former House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi leaves Boston's federal courthouse on Sept. 9, 2011, after being sentenced to eight years in prison. (AP)
Former House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi leaves Boston's federal courthouse on Sept. 9, 2011, after being sentenced to eight years in prison. (AP)

For months now, anticipation, dread and rumors have whirled around the federal investigation into the buying and selling of jobs at the Massachusetts Probation Department.

It's alleged that many probation employees bought their jobs and their promotions by making contributions to state legislators.

And now that former House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi — who was convicted last year in a different corruption trial — has been moved north from his prison cell in Kentucky, speculation has intensified that he may testify before a grand jury in Worcester.

A Long, Slow Bus Ride

Bus trips rarely make the news unless they involve Fung Wah and the calamities of other cut-rate carriers. But here in Worcester, the big news is a bus expected from the Big Apple Wednesday.

According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, prisoner No. 27371-038, aka DiMasi, spent his day Tuesday in Brooklyn at the Metropolitan Detention Center. On Monday, he left Lexington, Ky., on a slow bus ride north with fellow prisoners, which makes the milk run look fast.

Here at the federal courthouse, a grand jury has been meeting on the second floor on Wednesdays, according to reliable sources. Its specific and secret work is to collect evidence and testimony about allegedly rigged hiring and promotions and to hand up indictments if warranted.

Why's He Coming?

Presuming the prisoner bus drops DiMasi off in Worcester Wednesday — where, according to normal procedure, he would be brought in the back way and out of sight — the speculative question is: for what purpose? The U.S. Attorney's office does not confirm the existence of grand jury investigations.

Among rampant speculation of which legislators might be indicted, the former speaker figures prominently. A November 2010 report by independent counsel Paul Ware found that 24 out of 36 job applicants sponsored by DiMasi — many of them campaign contributors — got jobs. No legislator was more successful.

There are various scenarios for anyone called to a grand jury. A federal prisoner can come voluntarily under an agreement with prosecutors for reduced prison time, in return for testimony. Or a prisoner can come involuntarily, as in the case of someone granted immunity to testify and then threatened with contempt of court if he doesn't. That can lead to a sentence of 18 additional months. Still a third possibility is being called before a grand jury, with one's indictment hinging on whether the jury believes the answers.

What we know for sure — is that DiMasi took a bus trip.

This program aired on February 7, 2012.

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



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