A government witness in the corruption trial of Salvatore F. DiMasi testified today that the former Massachusetts House speaker and his co-defendants made a flurry of calls to each other beginning at 6:59 a.m. on March 10, 2008 – the first day the Boston Globe started running a series of stories about DiMasi’s interests in a questionable contract for a Burlington software company.
The calls between DiMasi, codefendants Richard Vitale and Richard McDonough, and Joseph Lally, a former salesman for the company, continued for about two hours that morning, according to testimony in DiMasi’s public corruption trial.
DiMasi, Vitale, and McDonough are accused of steering two contracts totaling $17.5 million to the company, Cognos, in exchange for hundreds of thousands of dollars in kickbacks. Lally was a co-defendant in the case who pleaded guilty and cooperated with the government, testifying earlier that DiMasi was at the center of the scheme.
The testimony about the phone calls came from a paralegal in the United States attorney’s office in Massachusetts. She was used as a summary witness who simply described the phone records and how they coincided with key dates in the alleged conspiracy to help Cognos win contracts.
Defense lawyers argued that phone call records do not prove that any of the defendants made the calls, only that their numbers were used. Also, the defense lawyers maintained, the testimony did not show the substance of the conversations. For instance, prosecutors referred to a phone call between Lally and Vitale – and an attorney for Vitale argued it was made in regard to legitimate business: discussion of a health insurance policy for Lally.
But prosecutors sought to use the testimony of the witness, Mary Feeley, to show that the four men were regularly in touch with each other at key moments, such as when the Globe broke the story.
In another case, prosecutors said, the records showed that the defendants did not make any phone calls to each other for several hours on the afternoon of Father’s Day in 2006. That’s the day, Lally testified, that they played golf together and DiMasi told him they were going to “make some hay” during his tenure as House speaker.
Earlier today, a former partner in Vitale’s accounting firm testified that Vitale told him in December 2007 that Vitale was going to help plan DiMasi’s retirement from public office. He said Vitale told him DiMasi wanted to make more money in the private sector.
All along, according to prosecutors, DiMasi was planning to retire and cash in on the hundreds of thousands of dollars that were funneled to him in the kickback scheme.
The prosecution’s case, which has included testimony from such high-profile figures as Governor Deval Patrick, is expected to conclude Wednesday. The defense will bring their first witness Thursday.
US District Court Judge Mark L. Wolf indicated that the defense case would last a week, with closing statements coming some time during the week beginning June 13.
To read more about the DiMasi trial, click here.
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