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Two on opposite sides of trial face perjury charges

By John R. Ellement
Globe Staff / May 12, 2011

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A US Postal Service inspector and a Boston paralegal lied under oath about a personal relationship while they were on opposite sides of a federal criminal trial, and both are now charged with perjury and obstruction of justice, officials said.

Joseph M. McGonagle III, 37, of Danvers and Melanie M. Abbruzzese, 31, appeared in US District Court in Boston Tuesday. Each pleaded not guilty to one count of perjury and one count of obstruction of justice. Her hometown was not disclosed in federal papers.

According to an indictment filed in court, Abbruzzese was part of the team from the Boston law firm of Denner Pellegrino defending Eric L. Levine, a Brookline lawyer accused of participating in a $10.6 million mortgage fraud involving four other people. McGonagle was assisting federal prosecutors in the trial, which ended with the conviction of Levine and four codefendants.

Levine, who was sentenced to up to 12 years in federal prison, is seeking to have his conviction thrown out on the grounds that the “secret romantic relationship’’ undercut the quality of his defense, according to court records.

While the trial was underway last year, McGonagle and Abbruzzese were questioned under oath about the ties between them. According to the indictment, they both testified on May 19, 2010, that the contact between them had been limited and strictly professional.

However, prosecutors alleged in court papers that prior to May 19, the two had “social out-of-office and out-of-court meetings’’ and that assertions by both that they did not have a personal relationship was false.

McGonagle and Abbruzzese are both free pending trial, according to court records.

Jeffrey Denner, whose firm was linked to the incident, said Abbruzzese no longer works for the firm.

He also said that the issue of ties between McGonagle and Abbruzzese was first raised by Levine’s defense lawyer, Isaac Borenstein, who has left the firm.

John Ellement can be reached at ellement@globe.com.