Former Massachusetts Speaker guilty in kickback case

Reuters News
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Posted: Jun 15, 2011 5:33 PM
Former Massachusetts Speaker guilty in kickback case

BOSTON (Reuters) - A jury in Boston on Wednesday found former Massachusetts House speaker Salvatore DiMasi guilty of conspiring to help a software company win large state contracts in exchange for kickbacks.

DiMasi, 65, and lobbyist Richard McDonough, 66, were each convicted on one count of conspiracy, three counts of honest services mail fraud, three counts of honest services wire fraud and one count of extortion.

DiMasi, a Democrat, was the third consecutive House speaker in Massachusetts convicted of a felony. He held the post from September 2004 to January 2009, when he resigned.

"Public service and elected office is not a right or an entitlement -- it is a privilege that comes with the public's expectation of truthfulness and honesty," U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz said in a statement.

"Mr. DiMasi and Mr. McDonough paid the price for their decision to abuse their influence for their own personal gain," Ortiz said.

Leaving the courthouse in downtown Boston, DiMasi said he was "still in shock" over the verdict. DiMasi indicated he would appeal.

"I never made any decision unless it was based on what I thought was in the best interest of the citizens of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, my constituents," DiMasi said.

Thomas Kiley, a defense attorney for DiMasi, said his client has always maintained his innocence. "We are going to continue to battle to prove that," Kiley said.

Current House speaker Robert DeLeo, a Democrat, said his job now was to regain public trust in government.

"As we move away from this verdict -- in our actions and in our deeds -- we will work to restore the public's faith that public servants can be counted on to work for the greater good," he said.

The trial in a Boston federal court took six weeks, but the jury took only several hours to find DiMasi guilty.

Authorities charged DiMasi with a scheme to award software contracts in exchange for payments from Canadian company Cognos ULC, which has its U.S. headquarters in Massachusetts. Cognos was bought by computer giant IBM in 2007.

Through the arrangement, DiMasi was paid $65,000 over a two year period. Cognos received two software contracts from the state of Massachusetts worth $17.5 million.

DiMasi and McDonough each face up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on the fraud charges. The extortion charge carries the same penalty and the conspiracy count could mean up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Sentencing is scheduled for August 18.

(Reporting by Ros Krasny and Lauren Keiper. Editing by Peter Bohan)