By Adam Reilly
May 27, 2011
BOSTON — Governor Deval Patrick may have sealed the federal corruption case against former House Speaker Sal DiMasi in federal court on Friday.
DiMasi is accused of steering two software contracts totaling $17.5 million to the software company Cognos and of receiving at least $65,000 in kickbacks in return. Two of DiMasi's close friends, lobbyists Richard McDonough and accountant Richard Vitale, have also been charged; both men received hundreds of thousands of dollars from Cognos after the state contracts were awarded.
Testifying for the prosecution, Patrick said that at a State House leadership meeting early in 2007, shortly after he took office, DiMasi told Patrick he wanted an emergency bond bill under consideration to include funding for performance-management software. DiMasi reiterated his interest several times. Then, after the bond bill passed with allocated $15 million for the software in question, DiMasi reminded Patrick about the importance of performance-management software on more than one occasion.
At a breakfast meeting in July 2007, for example, arranged by Congressman Mike Capuano to help Patrick and DiMasi improve their relationship, DiMasi identified performance management software as his top legislative priority, and reminded Patrick as they parted, "Don't forget, that contract is important."
The most damning part of the governor's testimony, though, came when he described a meeting in the speaker's office in 2008, after the Boston Globe reported that the state had rescinded Cognos's performance-management contract following an investigation by inspector general Gregory Sullivan.
DiMasi, Patrick testified, was "angry and upset." He claimed members of Patrick's administration had leaked information about the IG's review to the Globe. And he said he wanted then-Administration and Finance Secretary Leslie Kirwan to issue a statement saying the DiMasi had no interest in the Cognos contract. Patrick told DiMasi that wasn't possible — because it wasn't true.
During his cross examination, DiMasi's attorney William Cintolo got Patrick to acknowledge that he was interested in performance management too, at least as a concept, and that DiMasi never said explicitly that he'd advance the governor's priorities if the governor advanced his. But Cintolo never challenged Patrick's account of what sounds, essentially, like DiMasi's request for a cover-up.
The lawyers for DiMasi and for the other defendants have argued throughout the trial that whatever the former speaker and his friends did on Cognos's behalf was standard State House operating procedure. By painting a picture of a moment in which DiMasi implicitly acknowledged that he'd done something wrong — and that he might be in trouble — Patrick may have rendered that defense untenable, at least for the former speaker.
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