Saturday, 2:15 PM
DiMasi confidant arraigned; case details kept secret
By Andrea Estes and Andrew Ryan, Globe Staff
A close confidant of House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi pleaded not guilty to lobbying and campaign violations today during a brief hearing in which a judge ordered that an outline of the case be kept secret.
(David Kamerman/Globe Staff)
"Not guilty" were the only words uttered by Richard Vitale during the proceeding in Suffolk Superior Court. His attorney, Martin Weinburg, successfully argued to the judge that the 18-page statement of the case should not be filed as a public document with the court. Weinburg maintained that the lengthy description of the allegations would be prejudicial to his client and would "harm the uncharged, unindicted people."
Prosecutors from the state attorney general's office argued that it was standard practice to file summaries of cases, which can be useful if there is a change in a proceeding, such as a new judge.
"I don't think it's necessary," said Superior Court Judge Peter Lauriat, who agreed with the defense that an 18-page summary was excessive. If prosecutors deemed it necessary, they could file a one- to two-page statement of the case, Lauriat said.
Vitale, 63, served as DiMasi's accountant and campaign treasurer. DiMasi's spokesman, David Guarino, said on Saturday that Vitale was no longer the speaker's accountant. They severed their business relationship several months ago, Guarino said. DiMasi had not previously disclosed that Vitale was no longer his accountant.
Vitale was indicted Dec. 18 on charges of violating lobbying and campaign finance laws stemming from work on behalf of a ticket brokersí organization. He is accused of secretly pushing legislation on behalf of the ticket brokers, which included directly lobbying DiMasi and House Speaker pro tempore Thomas Petrolati on several occasions.
Weinberg has described the charges as regulatory offenses and maintained his client had done nothing wrong.
Vitale and his company, WN Advisors, were indicted on 10 counts. The charges include two counts of failing to file timely registration statements; making an illegal agreement for compensation contingent on the passage of legislation; and four counts of making campaign contributions in excess of the $200 maximum per year. WN Advisors is charged with two counts of failing to file timely registration statements and making an illegal agreement for compensation contingent on the passage of legislation.
Vitale is scheduled to return to court on Feb. 9, with a trial date set for June 15. He had been scheduled to be arraigned last Monday, but his attorney asked that his presence at the hearing be waived because he was vacationing with his family. That request was rejected and Vitale was ordered to appear this morning.
Last Monday was the first time that prosecutors attempted to file a statement of the case outlining alleged violations of lobbying and campaign finance laws. Magistrate Gary Wilson sidestepped the issue last week by telling prosecutors not to file the statement of the case in court, a move that kept the document shielded from public view. In the meantime, House members overwhelmingly reelected DiMasi to a third two-year term as speaker.
On Friday, Wilson was removed from Vitale's case because the magistrate donated annually to DiMasi's campaign committee. While Wilson did nothing wrong and acted "by the book," he was removed to avoid "any perception of a conflict of interest," according to Maura Hennigan, Suffolk Superior Court's clerk for criminal business.