Key Witness Describes Funneling Money To DiMasi

By Sarah Birnbaum

May 13, 2011

BOSTON — Testimony is over for the week in the federal corruption trial of former Massachusetts House Speaker Sal DiMasi, who is accused of taking thousands of dollars in bribes in exchange for steering a multi-million dollar state contract to a software firm, Cognos. The man who allegedly funneled the kickbacks to the former speaker was back on the stand Thursday. 

Former Massachusetts House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi spoke briefly to reporters as he left federal court after being indicted on federal corruption charges in Boston in June 2009.

Federal prosecutors say Cognos's payoffs to Dimasi came through a third party: His former law associate Steven Topazio.

Topazio testified that DiMasi helped him get a no-show contract with Cognos, worth $5000 a month. Topazio says he kept $1000 for himself and turned $4000 over to Dimasi. Topazio says the payments continued for two years, even though he never did any work for the company. 
About a year later, when the Boston Globe started asking questions, Topazio says he called DiMasi down to his office to discuss the matter. 

He says he showed DiMasi part of the check register, where he recorded all the Cognos payments. DiMasi asked to see the entire register, but Topazio said he lost the second half of it. Topazio says Dimasi's reply was, “I wish you lost the first half too.”
Defense lawyers argued there was nothing unusual in the arrangement. They tried to show that if the Cognos payments really were bribes, DiMasi would have tried harder to cover them up. 

The defense asked Topazio, "Did Mr. Dimasi ever ask you to put someone else’s name on the check?”

"No," Topazio responded.
"Did he ever ask you to make a check out to cash?" asked the defense.
"Never," Topazio answered.
During cross examination, Topazio also said that he got lots of business through DiMasi and that he sent DiMasi referral fees on a regular basis, though not as high as the 80% fee DiMasi got from the Cognos contract. 

Testimony resumes Monday.

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