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Witness in Mass. corruption case questioned money

By Bob Salsberg
Associated Press / May 24, 2011

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BOSTON—A witness in the federal corruption trial of former Massachusetts House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi and two associates said Tuesday he had suspicions that DiMasi was receiving money in exchange for his clout in helping secure two lucrative software contracts, but was told to keep any such concerns to himself.

Bruce Major was a business partner of Joseph Lally, who pleaded guilty to charges that he participated in a scheme to funnel kickbacks to DiMasi. On trial with DiMasi are Richard McDonough, a prominent Statehouse lobbyist, and Richard Vitale, an accountant and close friend of the ex-speaker.

In 2006, Major and Lally -- a former salesman for the Cognos software firm -- formed a partnership called Montvale Solutions to resell Cognos software.

In his testimony Tuesday, Major said he did not initially question payments Montvale was making to McDonough and Vitale. In early 2007, however, with the relationship between the two men souring, Major said he had a "heated argument" with Lally over a $500,000 consulting contract Montvale signed with Vitale. When he told Lally of his suspicions that some of the money was going to DiMasi, Lally yelled at him and told him not to question it further, Major testified.

"As far as you know, it's a payment to WN Advisors and that's it," he quoted Lally as saying. WN Advisors was the name of a consulting firm Vitale had formed.

Major, a former professional hockey player who testified under a grant of immunity, also said Lally once "chastised" him for using DiMasi's name in an email, and told him never to do it again. Major answered yes when asked if he had an idea as to why Lally didn't want DiMasi's name used in emails but after defense attorneys objected, U.S. District Court Judge Mark Wolf told Major not to expand on his answer.

Also Tuesday, prosecutors indicated that Gov. Deval Patrick would be the final of about ten remaining government witnesses. The prosecution had been hoping to wrap up its case by Friday, but it was unclear if that schedule would be met. The order of witnesses also has been known to change.

Patrick would be the first sitting governor in more than 15 years to testify at a criminal trial. He's expected to be asked if DiMasi pressured his administration to approve a performance management software contract.

Patrick's former deputy chief of staff, David Simas, testified Tuesday that he did not believe the software contract would have been included in an emergency borrowing authorization passed shortly after Patrick took office in early 2007 had DiMasi not insisted on it.

Simas, who later became an adviser to President Barack Obama, said Patrick administration officials intended the bond bill to include only urgent items such as road and bridge repairs. Prosecutors showed a March 2007 email from then-assistant Secretary of Administration and Finance Jay Gonzalez recommending that the speaker's request to include $15 million for the software be included in the bond bill.

Under cross-examination, DiMasi's attorney, William Cintolo, sought to show that employees of the state's information technology office had also pushed for performance management software to be included in the bill.

Former Secretary of Administration and Finance Leslie Kirwan is expected to be among the witnesses on Wednesday.

Major, under cross-examination, said he had concluded that Lally was dishonest by the time the two men dissolved their partnership in late 2007.

"My experience is that (Lally) is not a truthful person," said Major, who testified that Lally pushed him to misstate Montvale's corporate tax return by inflating expenses.

A centerpiece of the defense strategy has been to question the credibility of Lally, who spent three days on the witness stand last week. Lally struck a plea deal with the government before trial that could bring him a lighter prison sentence in exchange for his testimony against the three remaining defendants.

Lally received a $1.4 million commission from the performance management software sale, while Major's share was $561,000. But after questions began to surface about the contracts in 2008, Major testified that Lally, worried that the contract would be rescinded, called Major and told him: "I hope you didn't spend your money."