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Federal Judge Denies DiMasi Appeal

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Former Mass. House Speaker Sal DiMasi outside court on Wednesday, June 15, 2011.

Former Mass. House Speaker Sal DiMasi outside court on Wednesday, June 15, 2011.

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BOSTON (AP) — The federal judge who presided over the corruption trial of former Massachusetts House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi denied a defense bid for a new trial, saying Tuesday a jury had “ample evidence” to convict DiMasi and co-defendant Richard McDonough, a Statehouse lobbyist.

The former speaker, a Boston Democrat who was once one of the state’s most powerful politicians, was found guilty in June of conspiracy, extortion and theft of honest services by mail and wire fraud. He was accused of using his clout to steer two lucrative state contracts to a software firm in exchange for payments.

“In essence, despite the energetic efforts of able and imaginative defense counsel, the government proved to the jury, and the court, that DiMasi and McDonough participated in a classic scheme to sell DiMasi’s official powers as Speaker to Cognos and to structure that exchange in a way intended to keep their corrupt conduct from being detected and demonstrated,” U.S. District Court Judge Mark Wolf wrote in a 40-page decision denying the new trial.

“That scheme has failed,” wrote Wolf, who also denied a separate request to negate the jury’s finding by ordering a directed verdict of acquittal. The rulings clear the way for sentencing next week.

Lawyers for DiMasi and McDonough argued that evidence presented during the six-week trial was insufficient to prove guilt. They also argued that some evidence should not have been admitted and that some rulings made by Wolf regarding evidence and jury instructions were faulty.

DiMasi’s attorney, Thomas Kiley, declined to comment on Wolf’s decision because he had not yet read the entire text. But he promised that efforts to exonerate his client would continue after sentencing on Sept. 8, with appeals of the conviction made to higher federal courts.

Kiley plans to ask Wolf at sentencing to allow DiMasi to remain free pending those future appeals. To do so, he must demonstrate that there is reason to believe the appeals could be successful.

“We have that burden, we are ready to shoulder that burden,” Kiley said.

Federal prosecutors are recommending that Wolf impose a 12 1/2-year prison sentence on DiMasi, 66, and a 10-year sentence on McDonough, 65, who was convicted of conspiracy and fraud.

The defense, in a sentencing memorandum, asked that DiMasi be imprisoned for no more than three years, citing his lengthy record of public service and arguing that he derived only a “small personal benefit” from the offenses.

In exchange for helping Cognos secure $17.5 million in state contracts, prosecutors said, DiMasi received $65,000 in payments funneled through a law associate while McDonough and Richard Vitale received hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments disguised as lobbying or consulting fees.

Vitale, an accountant and close friend of DiMasi, was acquitted by the jury.

A fourth defendant, former software salesman Joseph Lally, pleaded guilty before the trial and testified against the other three. Lally is scheduled to be sentenced in October and could receive a lighter sentence in exchange for his cooperation with the government.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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