The former acting head of the state government's computer department testified today that then-Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi took a personal and persistent interest in pushing state contracts for software at the heart of DiMasi's corruption trial.
Bethann Pepoli told jurors in US District Court that she would not have proposed including Cognos software in legislation for the contracts if DiMasi had not asked for it.
"I know that Speaker DiMasi really, really wants the [Cognos] performance-management project in the emergency bond bill," Pepoli said she told her bosses during Massachusetts budget discussions.
Under cross-examination, DiMasi's attorney Thomas R. Kiley sought to show that while DiMasi may have advocated for the software, he did not identify it by the name "Cognos."
In December 2009, Pepoli was fined $3,000 for violating the state conflict of interest law by asking the Burlington software firm to help sponsor a golf outing.
Pepoli's appearance kicked off a week of testimony in the trial of DiMasi -- who resigned in January 2009 -- and two associates that is expected to cast more light on the behind-the-scenes workings of Beacon Hill. State representatives and aides have already described a legislative process that bends to the leadershipís will.
Potential witnesses include an Obama administration official, one of the leading Democratic strategists in Massachusetts, and Governor Deval Patrick.
DiMasi, long-time friend and adviser Richard Vitale, and lobbyist Richard McDonough face public corruption charges including conspiracy, honest services fraud, and mail and wire fraud, in allegedly using the power of the speakerís office to help Cognos win the contracts totaling $17.5 million in exchange for secret payments.
DiMasi, a former state representative from the North End, and his associates have denied any wrongdoing.
The salesman in the case, Joseph P. Lally Jr., pleaded guilty and testified about the alleged scheme in exchange for a sharply reduced jail sentence.
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