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Lawyer: Ex-Mass. House Speaker suffers from cancer

By Denise Lavoie
AP Legal Affairs Writer / June 20, 2012
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BOSTON—Former Massachusetts House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi was denied medical care in prison for months, and his tongue cancer has spread, his lawyer said in documents filed in his appeal of his conviction on corruption charges.

In a motion filed Tuesday with the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Boston attorney Thomas Kiley said DiMasi was told in January that lumps he found on his neck were potentially cancerous.

Kiley said that before further testing could be done, DiMasi was taken from the federal prison in Lexington, Ky., through various other detention facilities, to the Wyatt detention facility in Central Falls, R.I., for his appearance before a grand jury in Massachusetts investigating patronage in the state court system.

Kiley said DiMasi, 66, repeatedly asked for medical treatment and testing, but he was not examined again until April.

"At each detention facility Mr. DiMasi passed through, he requested medical treatment and asked that the tests that were supposed to have been done in Kentucky be performed," Kiley said in the motion. "He received no such treatment or testing."

In April, after DiMasi returned to Kentucky, doctors found a lesion on his tongue, and they told him they suspected the cancer was spreading because it was affecting his lymph nodes. Further testing in May showed that he had squamous cell cancer that had spread, Kiley said in the motion.

DiMasi was convicted last year of steering state contracts to a software firm in exchange for payments of $65,000. He was sentenced to eight years in prison.

In his motion, Kiley asked that he be given additional time to file his first appeal brief, citing the time spent on trying to get DiMasi additional testing and the time he will now need to receive treatment.

"Throughout 2012, many hours were spent attempting to have Mr. DiMasi obtain the medical tests necessary on the lumps on his neck. That time could have been used to prepare the brief in this case and was lost due to circumstances beyond Mr. DiMasi's control," he said.

The court granted Kiley's motion and gave him until Aug. 20 to file his brief.

Chris Burke, a spokesman for the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, said he could not comment on DiMasi's medical condition or the motion filed in court.

"I wouldn't address allegations in an individual's case other than to say that we do provide access to healthcare for our inmates," Burke said.

Kiley said DiMasi was transferred on June 6 from the Kentucky prison to the Federal Medical Center at the Butner Federal Correctional Complex in Butner, N.C.

He said DiMasi is getting ready to begin radiation on his tongue, "which will be quite painful and affect his ability to speak." After the radiation is completed, DiMasi will undergo seven weeks of chemotherapy, he said.

Kiley said he filed the motion to ask for more time so DiMasi "can participate fully in what we're doing" in his appeal, not to focus on any legal claim over DiMasi's medical treatment.

"I am just hopeful that Sal will get the appropriate treatment, and I'm happy that he's at Butner," Kiley said in a phone interview Wednesday.

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