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September 10, 2011

Record-long (but way below guideline) prison sentence for crooked Mass politician

As detailed in this Boston Globe article, headlined "Disgraced DiMasi is given 8 years; Judge calls former speaker’s fall from grace a ‘dream corrupted’," a high-profile defendants got a lengthy (but way below guideline) prison term in federal court yesterday.  Here are the details:

Former Massachusetts House speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi was sentenced yesterday to eight years in federal prison for his conviction on political corruption charges, the longest federal sentence handed out to an elected official in Massachusetts history, climaxing a years-long scandal that had captivated the state’s political establishment.

DiMasi’s codefendant, Richard McDonough, a well-known State House lobbyist, was sentenced to seven years in prison for taking part in the conspiracy to help a software company win state contracts in exchange for kickbacks.

US District Court Chief Judge Mark L. Wolf called the sentence appropriate, saying he balanced the ages of both men, 66, and consideration for their families, against the fact that they had betrayed the public’s trust by orchestrating the criminal scheme....

Wolf asked that the Federal Bureau of Prisons send DiMasi to Fort Devens, allowing him to remain close to his wife, who is fighting breast cancer.  DiMasi must serve two years of probation upon his release from prison and forfeit $65,000, the amount of money he directly received in the scheme.  McDonough must also serve two years of probation, forfeit the $250,000 he received, and pay a $50,000 fine.

Both men must report to prison by noon Nov. 16, although the judge is still considering whether they should be allowed to remain free pending an appeal.

Wolf’s sentence fell far below the sentencing guidelines he had calculated on Thursday, which allowed for DiMasi to be sentenced to 19 to 24 years and McDonough to 15 years. But the judge -- indicating from the beginning that he would not go as far as the guidelines allowed -- also said he believes the sentence, which is longer than many issued in comparable cases, could serve as a deterrent to those seeking to sell their public office.

"Corruption has very real victims, generally, and in this case," the judge said.  "I find the [sentence] is sufficient, but no longer than necessary, to send the message" against corruption.

Prosecutors had asked that DiMasi serve 12 to 15 years in prison and McDonough 10 years, while defense lawyers say both men should have to serve no more than three years in prison.

I always find notable in cases like this how one might "spin" the sentence imposed.  I suspect the defense could complain that this 8-year-term is essentially life sentence for both DiMasi and his ill wife; the prosecution could complain that a sentence so far below the guideline range fails to send a strong enough message against political corruption.  (Perhaps valuably, I do not think either spin would make a strong basis for a reasonableness appeal of this sentence to the First Circuit.)

September 10, 2011 at 10:30 AM | Permalink


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