Josh Reynolds for The Boston Globe
The salesman who sold the state two separate multimillion-dollar software contracts at the center of Salvatore F. DiMasi's corruption trial testified today that DiMasi had seemed intent on using the powerful position of state House speaker to reap financial gains.
Joseph P. Lally Jr., a former co-defendant in the case who has agreed to testify against DiMasi and his associates in exchange for leniency from prosecutors, recalled a 2006 golf game with DiMasi and a lobbyist, when the three discussed pushing the contracts with Burlington-based Cognos.
“I’m only going to be speaker for so long so it’s important we make as much hay as possible,” Lally quoted DiMasi as saying.
In his highly anticipated testimony, Lally also told jurors in US District Court in Boston about conversations he had with DiMasi's longtime friend and financial adviser, Richard Vitale, about payments in exchange for securing the second of the Cognos contracts, worth $13 million.
Lally testified he had asked Vitale what amount it would take to get the contract approved. "I said two, three hundred thousand? He said, 'How about 500,000?' And I agreed.”
"That was my understanding of what I needed to do to get the speaker to fund the project," Lally told jurors.
Lally was a salesman and vice president for Cognos before forming his own business in 2006. Through his business, he was allowed to sell Cognos products at a 20 percent commission, and prosecutors say he used that money to bribe DiMasi and persuade the former speaker’s associates to help him steer the contracts, totaling $17.5 million,
The contracts were awarded in 2006 and 2007.
Earlier this year, in the final lead-up to the trial, Lally agreed to plead guilty and cooperate with prosecutors in exchange for a sharply reduced jail sentence.
While Lally had faced 10 years in prison for charges including money laundering, conspiracy, honest services fraud and mail wire fraud, he pleaded guilty to only several of those charges. As a result, prosecutors will recommend he serve two to three years in prison.
Also, prosecutors agreed not to seek the forfeiture of his assets, including his luxurious North Reading home and $30,000 in assets.
But as much as DiMasi is the high-profile defendant in the case, defense lawyers have moved to make the trial more about a prosecution of Lally, who has been described by witnesses as a liar, a manipulator.
Defense lawyers call him a name dropper whose bragging only fueled a false bribery theory in what they called the appropriate lobbying on behalf of legitimate software for the state.
In court today, Lally acknowledged that he knew the Cognos contract was "a sham.''
“I was hoping to keep the whole game going and eventually reap some benefits from it... from the speaker,” Lally testified, looking calm and relaxed.
DiMasi stands trial along with Vitale and lobbyist Richard McDonough.
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