US judge denies DiMasi’s request for a new trial

Sentencing Sept. 8 for former speaker

Wolf ruled there was ‘ample evidence’ that former House speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi engaged in a ‘classic scheme.’ Wolf ruled there was ‘ample evidence’ that former House speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi engaged in a ‘classic scheme.’
By Milton J. Valencia and John R. Ellement
Globe Staff / August 31, 2011

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In a legal setback a week before he is to be sentenced on corruption charges, former House speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi yesterday lost his bid for a new trial, with a federal judge ruling there was “ample evidence’’ that DiMasi and lobbyist Richard W. McDonough engaged in a “classic scheme’’ to cash in on DiMasi’s power as an elected official.

In a 40-page ruling, US District Court Chief Judge Mark L. Wolf wrote that DiMasi and McDonough have no grounds to request a new trial, or to have the verdict set aside, based on his view of the weekslong trial as well as the pretrial rulings Wolf made.

DiMasi and McDonough were convicted in June of multiple counts of conspiracy and honest services fraud for using DiMasi’s power as speaker to help a Burlington software company called Cognos win two state contracts totaling $17.5 million in exchange for kickbacks.

“In essence, despite the energetic efforts of able and imaginative defense counsel, the government proved to the jury, and the court, that DiMasi and McDonough participated in a classic scheme to sell DiMasi’s official powers as speaker to Cognos and to structure that exchange in a way intended to keep their corrupt conduct from being detected and demonstrated,’’ Wolf wrote. “That scheme has failed.’’

Wolf said he will proceed with his plans to sentence DiMasi and McDonough in US District Court in South Boston Sept. 8. DiMasi’s convictions carry a maximum sentence of 20 years on each charge, and prosecutors have recommended he serve 12 years in prison. His lawyers have suggested he serve three.

DiMasi and McDonough will probably appeal the judge’s ruling to the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, and it is unclear whether Wolf will allow them to remain free pending that process.

Thomas Kiley, an attorney for DiMasi, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

McDonough’s lawyer, Thomas Drechsler, said he was still reviewing Wolf’s ruling so could not comment directly on it. He said McDonough is preparing for the sentencing date but added, “My client plans on reviewing his appellate options at the appropriate time.’’

A third defendant, Richard Vitale, was acquitted of all charges at the trial. A fourth man, Joseph P. Lally Jr., pleaded guilty before trial and testified against his former coconspirators in return for a reduced sentence. He is to be sentenced in October.

DiMasi is the third straight House speaker convicted of federal charges, and testimony during the eight-week trial painted an unflattering picture of the behind-the-scenes deals that underlie legislative decision making.

As part of the scheme, DiMasi was paid $65,000 that was funneled to him through a former law associate. DiMasi, according to the witnesses at the trial, pushed Governor Deval Patrick’s administration to grant a contract to Cognos. The money was returned after questions were raised about the deal.

In his ruling yesterday, Wolf said that he has no doubt the convictions of the two men were warranted.

“In this case, there was both the direct and circumstantial evidence . . . to demonstrate a conspiracy between DiMasi, McDonough, Lally, and Vitale to engage in a scheme involving a series of payments to, and for the benefit of, DiMasi in exchange for the performance of official acts by DiMasi,’’ the judge wrote.

He added: “When viewed in the light most favorable to the verdicts, there was ample evidence for the jury to find beyond a reasonable doubt that DiMasi and McDonough were guilty of all of the charges on which they were convicted.’’

John R. Ellement can be reached at Milton J. Valencia can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @MiltonValencia