Congressman John Tierney denied charges made by his brother-in-law Daniel Eremian that he "knew everything" about Eremian's illegal gambling operation, calling the claim "kind of bizarre" in an interview this evening.
Eremian made the claim, also calling Tierney a "liar," to the Salem News outside a federal courtroom, where he had just been sentenced to three years in prison. Eremian also told the paper that Patrice Tierney, who is his sister and the congressman's brother, had been forced to plead guilty to a related charge in order to save Tierney's political career. Patrice Tierney served 30 days in 2010, followed by probation.
"I'm as stunned as anyone" by Eremian's remarks, Tierney said. "I had no idea that he would take it to this level."
Tierney insists that he believed the Antigua-based Internet gambling business, which also involved another Eremian brother who remains a fugitive, was legal. He notes that federal authorities also believed that as recently as 2002, and that a federal judge in his wife's case declared that Tierney was not implicated in any way.
Richard Tisei, the Republican challenging Tierney in this year's election, has raised questions during the campaign about whether Tierney knew more about the Eremian brothers' illegal activities than he has admitted. Earlier this week the Tisei campaign launched a web site calling on Tierney to give to charity money that his wife received from her brother.
In a statement, Patrice Tierney also denied the allegations her brother made today. "It shocks and saddens me to learn that my brother would say something so utterly false about me and my husband in a moment of desperation and anger," she said in the statement.
"He's obviously upset," Tierney said. "The statement was irrational."
Tierney added that Eremian had been angry that his sister has not spoken with him since serving her sentence, and may have believed that the congressman was preventing her from doing so. In fact, Tierney said, her probation officer told her she could not have contact with him, allowing an exception only once to make arrangements as their mother was dying.