Published May 23, 2011
As the federal corruption trial of former House Speaker Sal DiMasi entered its third week today, WBUR’s David Boeri recaps the case so far, with the help of sketches by Margaret Small.
Background: In 2006 and 2007, a Canadian software company called Cognos won two contracts from the state worth $17.5 million. According to federal prosecutors, the contracts came off as the result of a scheme whereby Speaker DiMasi “found a way to cash in on that office.”
As “kickbacks” for steering the contracts to Cognos, the government alleges, DiMasi and his associates and close friends Richard McDonough and Richard Vitale received hundreds of thousands of dollars from software salesman Joe Lally.
Lally, who won millions of dollars of sales commissions on the contracts, has plead guilty to the charges of conspiracy and honest services mail fraud. As a condition of his plea deal, he has agreed to testify against his former co-defendants. In return for his testimony, Lally will receive a recommendation for a reduced prison sentence and the government allowed him to keep his home and other assets, which would have been otherwise forfeited.
The maximum sentence on all the charges against the defendants amounts to 165 years. DiMasi, McDonough and Vitale all assert their innocence.
The defense table
From left to right: defendant Richard — everyone calls him “Dickie” — McDonough, a well-known lobbyist on Beacon Hill and close friend of DiMasi; William Cintolo, DiMasi’s attorney; Tom Drechsler, McDonough’s attorney; DiMasi, most often referred to as “Sal” or “The Speaker”; and Tom Kiley, co-counsel for DiMasi.
As with all images, click to enlarge.
“Did you ever get any other clients referred to you by Mr. DiMasi for whom you did no work?”
[From the defense table] “Objection!”
Steven Topazio, center, testifies under questioning by federal prosecutor Theodore Merritt, while DiMasi watches from the lower left.
A law associate of DiMasi, Topazio was paid $5,000 a month by Cognos on a contract for which he was never asked to do any work. He testified that he paid $4,000 a month to DiMasi — $65,000 in all — thinking that was DiMasi’s share for referring the client. The government says the money was a series of kickbacks from Lally disguised as consulting fees to Topazio.