Prosecutors in the corruption trial of former House speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi revealed today that key witness Joseph Lally had once hired DiMasi as a lawyer, in 1994.
The connection came to light in US District Court, as Lally's testimony wound down after two full days of questioning.
DiMasi was a state representative from the North End at the time – he was not elected speaker until 2004 – and there was nothing illegal about the arrangement. He had been hired to represent Lally on charges he passed bad checks. Lally had said earlier that he was going through a divorce and did not realize the checks would not clear.
But prosecutors sought to introduce the attorney-client relationship, under the re-direct examination of Lally, to show the two had known each other far longer than defense attorneys have acknowledged.
DiMasi faces public corruption charges for allegedly helping a Burlington software company, Cognos, win $17.5 million in state contracts in exchange for kickbacks.
Lally, a former salesman and vice president of the company, pleaded guilty to providing the kickback in exchange for a sharply reduced jail sentence. He said in previous testimony that he funneled money to DiMasi through two of the former speaker’s associates: Richard McDonough and Richard Vitale. They have denied any wrongdoing.
In cross-examination over the past two days, defense lawyers have sought to undermine Lally’s credibility by showing him to be a liar who bragged about false connections to DiMasi. They say he is shaping his testimony to curry favor from prosecutors.
But prosecutors said Lally provided payments to DiMasi not for access to the speaker, but to win contracts.
Under questioning, Lally said he did not make $500,000 in payments to Vitale to gain access to DiMasi.
“I paid him to funnel money back to DiMasi,” he said.
Lally also said he had no ill will toward his former co-defendants.
“I like them all and don’t want to see anything bad happen to them,” he said.
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