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US seeks 12-year sentence for DiMasi

Harshest ever for Mass. corruption

By Milton J. Valencia
Globe Staff / August 25, 2011

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Federal prosecutors recommended yesterday that former House speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi serve 12 years and seven months in federal prison for his conviction on corruption charges, in what they say would amount to the most severe federal sentence ever handed down in a political corruption case in Massachusetts.

The prosecutors asked US District Court Chief Judge Mark L. Wolf to consider DiMasi’s position in authority when he carried out the crimes, as well as his insistence on his innocence after the jury rendered its verdict, when he sentences DiMasi on Sept. 8.

They argue that DiMasi’s failure to take responsibility for his crimes compounds “the public distrust of political leaders.’’

“DiMasi’s sentence should reflect the seriousness of his offense, promote respect for the law, provide just punishment, and afford adequate deterrence,’’ prosecutors said in a 19-page sentencing proposal filed in US District Court in Boston. “Any public official who engages in a bribery/kickback scheme severely undermines the trust that citizens place in their elected officials to act honestly and without self-interest.’’

The prosecutors have proposed that DiMasi also forfeit $65,000, the amount of money that he directly received as part of the scheme.

Thomas Kiley, an attorney for DiMasi, could not be reached for comment yesterday. He is scheduled to submit his proposed sentencing guideline by tomorrow.

The prosecutors have also asked Wolf to sentence DiMasi codefendant Richard McDonough, a lobbyist for Burlington software company Cognos, to 10 years in jail and to forfeit $250,000.

DiMasi and McDonough were convicted in federal court in June of using DiMasi’s power as speaker to steer two software contracts totaling $17.5 million toward Cognos in exchange for hundreds of thousands of dollars in secret payments.

The contracts were awarded in 2006 and 2007. DiMasi was indicted in 2009, after the Globe exposed his Cognos dealings.

As one part of the scheme, DiMasi had McDonough and a former Cognos salesman, Joseph P. Lally Jr., put DiMasi’s law associate Steven Topazio on the Cognos payroll, even though he did no work for the company. In turn, Topazio paid DiMasi $65,000 in referral fees that a jury determined to be bribes.

Topazio, who said he was unaware of DiMasi’s dealings with Cognos, was not accused of any wrongdoing.

McDonough received $250,000 from Lally for helping in the arrangement that resulted in Cognos winning the contracts. Lally received about $2.8 million in commissions from Cognos for the two contracts.

In a separate part of the scheme, Lally said he agreed to pay $600,000 to Richard Vitale, DiMasi’s longtime friend and financial adviser, under the belief that the money would be kicked back to DiMasi for his helping in securing the contracts.

Lally pleaded guilty and testified of the conspiracy for authorities in exchange for a sharply reduced jail sentence.

He is slated to be sentenced in October and could receive a sentence of two to three years for his assistance in the case.

Vitale was acquitted on all counts.

But prosecutors have argued, and Wolf has indicated that he tends to agree, that enough evidence was shown of the scheme involving Vitale to allow for the inclusion of the allegations when determining an appropriate sentence for DiMasi.

Prosecutors have estimated that the total loss to taxpayers, a figure to be used for sentencing guidelines, comes to $915,000 - the $250,000 paid to McDonough, the $600,000 paid to Vitale, and the $65,000 that went directly to DiMasi.

Authorities said they could not consider the total cost for the contracts as a loss to taxpayers because evidence introduced at trial showed the state had a need for the software at issue.

Also, Cognos eventually reimbursed the state the $13 million for the second contract.

Prosecutors said they were factoring in DiMasi’s age, at 66, in recommending he receive the lower end of sentencing guidelines, which range from 12 years and seven months to 15 years and six months in prison.

Anticipating that DiMasi’s lawyers will submit letters of support from his friends, testifying of the good work he has done in over 30 years in public service, prosecutors argue the work was expected all along of DiMasi.

Milton J. Valencia can be reached at MValencia@globe.com Follow him on Twitter @MiltonValencia

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