DiMasi Comes To Worcester

Update: Robert DeLeo's attorney, Robert Popeo, tells me today that DeLeo "is not a target of the investigation. He is not somebody who violated the law. There is nothing in the DiMasi travel that will in any way affect him.


Word started spreading yesterday that former Massachusetts House Speaker Sal DiMasi had departed his new residence at the Federal Medical Center in Lexington, Kentucky -- ie, the pen where he is serving an eight-year sentence. This morning, Andrea Estes and Shelley Murphy drop a bombshell: according to their sources (and they typically have good ones), DiMasi is on his way to Worcester to testify before a federal grand jury, presumably the one readying corruption charges relating to the probation patronage scandal.

This may or may not clarify the apparent delay in indictments from that investigation. The Globe reported on January 17 that indictments were imminent, and people I spoke with at the time believed they were coming that week.

Since then, rumors and speculation have run rampant; more than once I have been told that indictments were definitely coming "tomorrow."

Most of the scuttlebutt maintains that the Globe was correct that the indictments were coming, but then something caused a delay. There have been, broadly speaking, two sets of explanations offered.

The first has it that Boston's US Attorney Carmen Ortiz kicked the case up to Washington, for US Attorney General Eric Holder to make some decision about how to proceed. The second theory for the delay posits that someone flipped -- that someone, on the eve of indictment, offered to make a deal and gave the feds some new information. Prosecutors, under this scenario, have been pursuing those new leads.

These two theories are not exclusive to each other. It's possible that both were happening independently. Or, one could have caused the other.

Now, comes DiMasi.

As Estes and Murphy make clear, we don't know what brings DiMasi to Worcester. But it sure looks like DiMasi, having lost his legal attempts to stay free pending appeal, and to be housed close to home, saw that the probation indictments were pending and saw a moment of maximum leverage.

I am told, by people close to DiMasi circles, that this is more or less the case -- that the feds and DiMasi have been negotiating this deal for a couple of weeks, which if correct would place the first discussions just after the January 17 Globe article.

All of the above -- if true -- is of course just backdrop for the real issue: what, and whom, is DiMasi giving the feds?

You'd have to figure it has to be pretty big. Once the feds land a big fish like DiMasi -- and publicly orate about the grossness of his crimes, as Ortiz has -- they don't ease his sentence without getting something good. Indeed, it's quite possible that the reason the deal took two weeks to finalize is because the feds kept demanding more from him.

Estes and Murphy drop a huge suggestion at the end of today's story. Without suggesting directly that this is the subject of DiMasi's testimony, they bring up old allegations that DiMasi and DeLeo traded probation jobs for votes to make DeLeo speaker after DiMasi. That allegedly included DeLeo, then Ways & Means chair, adding money to the probation budget to accommodate those hires.

(Worth noting: DeLeo supporters have long believed, with some justification, that the Globe has been desperate to tie the probation scandal to DeLeo; the inclusion of this allegation could be viewed from that perspective.)

Needless to say, DiMasi testimony affirming all of that would be devastating to DeLeo. And, it is likely that DiMasi would also be testifying to other improper uses of probation patronage -- and other types of improper dealmaking -- going back through his own and Tom Finneran's speakerships, that could implicate many current and former representatives, including those in leadership.

Also, consider this. It is plausible that many of the representatives who knew about these deals didn't think that much of them at the time. After all, people like Finneran, DiMasi, and DeLeo are deal-makers -- sometimes explicitly, sometimes implicitly. Promises of patronage jobs probably wouldn't have struck someone as particularly worse than, say, promises to get an earmark into the budget, or promises to provide help for a re-election campaign.

But that changed a little over a year ago, when patronage at the probation department became the known subject of a criminal investigation. At that point, anybody with knowledge of anybody making, or offering, any deals involving a promise of jobs at that department had a duty to come forward with what they knew.

If DiMasi is giving federal prosecutors information about such deals, and how they were done, and with whom they were discussed, then there are a bunch of current and former reps potentially on the hook legally for withholding that information. The Feds might not be looking to prosecute all of them, but they would certainly be interested in using the threat to squeeze testimony out of them.

The theory I'm hearing today is that DiMasi, who many say has grown bitter toward DeLeo for a variety of reasons, decided to take DeLeo down in exchange for some changes to his sentence. He may have initially thought he could do this without endangering other former colleagues, but -- according to this chatter -- the Feds wouldn't do the deal without a fuller accounting, which would implicate others.

If this is the case, then DiMasi's upcoming grand jury testimony will likely be followed not by immediate indictments, but by more appearances by people suddenly willing to talk. In other words, this could get ugly and uglier.

Or, maybe DiMasi is just coming to Worcester for a drink at the Boynton. Anything else is just speculation and rumor at this point. But, it's increasingly interesting speculation and rumor.

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