Lawyers for Salvatore F. DiMasi and two associates asked a federal court judge today to dismiss all the charges in the corruption trial, saying prosecutors have introduced no evidence showing the former speaker directed anyone to act on behalf of a Burlington software company seeking contracts with the state or that he asked anyone for kickbacks.
The 21-page motion relies heavily on a 2010 US Supreme Court ruling that narrows the scope of evidence allowed in honest services charges, the basis of the allegations in the case.
The lawyers argued that prosecutors failed to prove that DiMasi knowingly caused payments to be made to him in direct connection to his help to win contracts for the company, Cognos, or that he helped the company to receive the payments.
“There’s no evidence of causation,” said Martin Weinberg, an attorney for DiMasi codefendant Richard Vitale. “I think that’s the most gaping hole in the government’s prosecution.”
The defense request to dismiss the case, standard procedure in federal court, was issued after the prosecution rested this morning following testimony of Richard Caturano, a former business partner of Vitale. He told jurors that Vitale never told him of payments he received for his work related to the Cognos deals, as required under their company's shareholders’ agreement.
US District Court Judge Mark Wolf indicated in a lengthy hearing today that he will let the jury decide at least some of the charges. However, the judge said the defense arguments could help him decide how to craft jury instructions.
If the case continues, jurors could hear from defense witnesses beginning Monday.
DiMasi, Vitale and lobbyist Richard McDonough are charged with eight counts of conspiracy and honest services fraud by mail and wire fraud. DiMasi is also charged with extortion.
Salvatore F. DiMasi racked up substantial debt after becoming speaker of the state House in 2004, motivating him to help a Burlington software company win state contracts in exchange for hundreds of thousands of dollars in kickbacks, according to prosecutors and witness statements in federal court.
Testifying in DiMasi’s public corruption trial, a prosecution witness said today that DiMasi and his wife, Debbie, built up $250,000 in consumer debt as of 2007. That figure does not include the $500,000 mortgage on DiMasi’s North End condominium and the roughly $400,000 on Needham property his family owned, according to the witness, Andrea Roller, an accountant in the US attorney’s office who assists prosecutors in what she called “white-collar crimes.”FULL ENTRY
The state’s former head of administration and finance told a federal jury today that she signed what turned out to be a questionable, multimillion-dollar contract with a Burlington software company in 2007 in hopes of mending relations between the Patrick administration and then-House speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi.
“I would have sought legal advice for what other steps I could take,” Kirwan told jurors.
Also today, the court put Governor Deval Patrick on the schedule to testify Friday.
During her testimony, Kirwan said she asked the state inspector general to investigate the awarding of the contract after a competing vendor complained of the bidding process. The contract was ultimately voided, and IBM, which eventually bought Cognos, refunded the $13 million to the state.
The state never received the type of software that DiMasi had lobbied hard for, said Kirwan, who left her post in October 2009 for an administrative job at Harvard University – four months after DiMasi and his associates were indicted for the alleged scheme.
Prosecutors used Kirwan’s testimony to bolster their assertions that DiMasi essentially co-opted Kirwan’s support by flexing his political power as House speaker to convince her to back the Cognos deal.
Suzanne Kreiter / Globe Staff
The former business partner of a key prosecution witness testified today that he had questioned the money they were giving to an associate of Salvatore F. DiMasi, suspecting that it was being funneled to the then-House speaker.
Bruce Major, a partner with former Cognos salesman Joseph Lally, said he and Lally engaged in an argument in early 2007 and that he asked about the $500,000 they were giving to DiMasi associate Richard Vitale for consulting services.
“I made mention of the fact that I assumed a portion of that payment would go to Mr. Dimasi,” Major testified in DiMasi’s public corruption trial. “Joe got really angry and yelled at me, and said I had no idea what was going on with the money, he had no idea what was going on with the money. He said he didn’t care.”
All along, according to prosecutors, DiMasi and Vitale were plotting to receive the money in exchange for helping Cognos win a multi-million-dollar contract with the state.FULL ENTRY
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.FULL ENTRY
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.FULL ENTRY
Lawyers for former House speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi and two associates attacked the credibility of the star witness in DiMasi's corruption trial today, seeking to undermine Joseph P. Lally's story of a four-man conspiracy to win kickbacks from state contracts.
In cross-examining Lally, the attorneys highlighted his gambling debts and other legal problems, which they have suggested fueled his willingness to take a plea deal in which he agreed to cooperate with authorities and testify in exchange for a reduced sentence.
Thomas Drechsler, lawyer for lobbyist Richard W. McDonough, told the court that Lally had omitted $70,000 in gambling debt from his first application for a court-appointed lawyer.
“Of all the people in this courtroom, you’re the only one who pled guilty to being a schemer, isn’t that right?” Drechsler asked.
Drechsler at one point zeroed in on Lally with such theatrics that it brought laughter in the courtroom. Later, US District Chief Judge Mark L. Wolf asked the lawyer to "cool down.''
Answered Drechsler: "This is my style, judge.''FULL ENTRY
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.FULL ENTRY
A former state representative testified in the corruption trial of Salvatore F. DiMasi today that he felt “honored” to sponsor a budget amendment on behalf of the former speaker that dedicated at least $4.5 million to business intelligence software for the state Department of Education.
Former representative Robert Coughlin of Dedham said he did not know anything about the software, but that he thought it was appropriate to support new technology and education.
All along, according to prosecutors, DiMasi was using Coughlin as a catalyst to secure the funding, so it could ultimately be awarded to a Burlington software company in exchange for kickbacks for DiMasi and his associates.
As a new representative, Coughlin said, he was glad to take the leading role in sponsoring the budget amendment in 2006.
“The speaker’s office asked, and it was an honor to do it,” Coughlin said.
Under cross-examination, he acknowledged that he did not speak to DiMasi directly, but was asked to sponsor the amendment by one of the former speaker’s key aides.
But “I looked at [the aide] as the speaker’s office,” he said.FULL ENTRY
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