Saturday, 2:15 PM
Judge dropped in Vitale case; DiMasi donations cited
By Andrea Estes, Globe Staff
A new judge was appointed today to arraign Richard D. Vitale, House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi's accountant, according to Maura Hennigan, Suffolk Superior Court's clerk for criminal business.
Hennigan tapped Superior Court Judge Peter Lauriat to handle Monday's hearing after she learned that Gary Wilson, the clerk magistrate who was originally assigned the case, had donated annually to DiMasi's campaign committee.
"Gary did everything by the book," said Hennigan, referring to last Monday's scheduled arraignment, which was postponed after Vitale did not appear. "He has heard over 25,000 cases over his career and I reviewed everything. There was nothing he did that was inappropriate. But I don't want there to be any perception of a conflict of interest."
Records of the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance show that Wilson, who she said is vice president of the statewide clerks association, donated $700 to DiMasi between 2002 and 2007.
The sides agreed to postpone the arraignment after Vitale, who was on vacation with his family, did not show up and prosecutors from the attorney general's office said they would oppose a motion by Vitale's lawyer, Martin Weinberg, to waive his appearance. Prosecutors had planned to file a statement of the case outlining alleged violations of lobbying and campaign finance laws.
Weinberg asked that the statement of the case be sealed because of the sensitivity of the charges and his fear that it would include sensational allegations that prosecutors would later be unable to prove. Wilson did not accept the statement of the case.
Weinberg said today he will renew efforts to keep the document secret.
"The filing of an 18 page statement of the case when there is no contested issue of bail is absolutely legally unprecedented and I will resist what I consider to be an effort to jeopardize Dick Vitale's rights to a fair trial," he said.
Vitale, 63, was indicted on 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.