BOSTON (CBS/AP) — Former Massachusetts House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi has been sentenced to eight years in federal prison for using his clout to steer two state contracts to a software firm in exchange for kickbacks.
His sentence will be followed by two years of supervised release. DiMasi was also ordered to forfeit $65,000.
The judge recommended DiMasi serve his time at The Federal Medical Center (FMC) Devens, which is designated for prisoners requiring specialized or long-term medical or mental health care.
After court, Sal DiMasi had nothing to say about the sentence. His attorney Tom Kiley said they plan to appeal. “A chapter is closed, we are happy to be past it. The next chapter will be in the First Circuit (court of appeals) that’s all we have to say.”
Watch WBZ-TV’s Karen Anderson’s report
US Attorney Carmen Ortiz calls it a substantial sentence. She said, “Even thought the defense focused on confusion of actions, or that there was confusion of the statutes, that the statutes were unclear, the reality is at the core of this case, it was simply about a high powerful Speaker of the House who took bribes and kickbacks, in exchange for using his political position to benefit himself and his friend. Basically he sold his office. That’s what he got convicted of, that’s what he sentenced for today.”
The sentence was apparently intended to send a message to Beacon Hill. “Politicians usually don’t want public corruption treated as a serious crime,” Wolf said. “I’m concerned (corruption by public officials) will discourage honest and able citizens from running for office.”
Does Ortiz think this will deter corruption on Beacon Hill? “Quite frankly I’m not sure. I hope so,” Ortiz says adding “I don’t think there is rampant corruption on Beacon Hill. It’s more the sense that there doesn’t seem to be a sensitivity and a realization that corruption by public officials is a serious and unacceptable crime. There seems to be almost a tolerance for it.”
She says, “Many of them believe that in the nature of their work, while they champion causes for those less fortunate, while they’re engaged in good works, that somehow that mitigates illegal conduct or corrupt behavior. It’s striking that elected officials may think their good works, if you’re engaged in good work, a little corrpution is okay. It’s not okay.”
Defense attorneys asked for three years, citing DiMasi’s public service and strong family ties.
U.S. District Court Judge Mark Wolf did acknowledge DiMasi’s service.
“I have come to learn more about you and your characteristics, your personal history, your good works,” Wolf told DiMasi. “I’m satisfied you did advocate for the disadvantaged… But… in my view you sold those people out.”
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Prosecutors had asked for a 12 1/2 year sentence for DiMasi, convicted in June on charges of conspiracy, extortion and honest services fraud.
DiMasi delivered an emotional speech in court Thursday, calling himself a broken man and asking Wolf to show mercy.
Wolf on Friday also sentenced co-defendant Richard McDonough, a prominent Statehouse lobbyist, to seven years for his role in the scheme.
Judge Wolf said he will take six to eight weeks to decide whether DiMasi will be allowed to be free pending his appeal.
“It’s undisputed Mrs. DiMasi has significant health problem that has a particular urgency to it,” he said.
In the meantime, DiMasi has been ordered to report to prison on December 16.
Mayor Menino, who has known DiMasi for 35 years and calls him a friend says, “He made a message and the judicial system is coming down on him. We’ve got to support his family. Sal’s helped alot of people, but he made that mistake and in our business you can make mistakes, and Sal made that mistake.”
WBZ-TV’s Karen Anderson contributed to this report
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