By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Finneran takes the hit

Frank Phillips and Shelley Murphy report in today’s Boston Globe that former Massachusetts House Speaker Tom Finneran will plead guilty to obstruction of justice in a legislative-redistricting case. In return, Finneran will not go to prison and will not face federal perjury charges.

The charges have always struck me as faintly ridiculous. As Harvey Silverglate pointed out in this piece in the Boston Phoenix a year and a half ago, U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan would have had a difficult time proving that Finneran did anything other than parse his words a little too cutely when he testified in the redistricting case. There was also no reason to think that whatever obfuscation Finneran engaged in was “material” to the outcome — key to proving perjury. In a remarkably prescient passage, Silverglate wrote:

Given the merits of his case, Sullivan is unlikely to prevail unless he pressures Finneran into accepting a plea bargain. Sullivan has many weapons at his disposal for applying such pressure, not the least of which is his power to recommend that if Finneran pleads guilty, the judge refrain from imposing a prison term. But Sullivan’s power to indict (it is rightly said that a federal prosecutor can get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich) and to pressure Finneran into a plea bargain is not the standard by which a federal prosecutor is supposed to decide whether to charge a citizen.

Silverglate closed that observation with this: “Besides, the former Speaker’s legendary toughness might well thwart any effort to pressure him into pleading guilty.” Sometimes, though, even a tough guy knows when to take the deal that’s offered him — regardless of whether he’s actually guilty.

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  1. Anonymous

    EB3 here. What a shame. I wanted him to fight it. But easy for me to say. Silvergate is right. And those decisions are made everyday in court houses around the country.I did not do it. But if idon’t take the deal and roll the dice thery will send me away for a long time.Inncocent people plead guilty all the time. And with mandatory sentencing and gutless judges the choice becomes easy.many OUI defendants plead guilty when judges are sending first offenders to jail after trial. It happens.

  2. Anonymous

    EB3 here again…U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan’s actions in this case are not much different than the D.A prosecutiong the Duke Lacrosse players.

  3. Anonymous

    So you equate a bunch of drunken college kids paying for a stripper with the disenfranchising of thousands of African American voters by those famously ethical folks, the Mass. Great & General Court? Dude, seek professional help!

  4. Anonymous

    i’m no fan of overweaning prosecutors; but finneran is no angel, folks,

  5. Anonymous

    EB3 hereHey anon 10:44 not following your point. I equate over zealous prosecutors with over zealous prosecutors.Tom Finneran faced a tough decision. Take the deal and walk away or fight. Ask any trial attorney and he/she will tell you that you cannot predict what a jury would do. And Finneran could get jail time.So, if he was single without family, I bet he would have taken the bastards on. But to put your family through that can be very selfish.Take the deal and sign for big $$ for Morning talk show and move on with your life. Talk show job may not be there after trial.Tom Finneran will have the air waves every morning to get his point across. Wait til his probation is over. Then he will tell you what he really thinks of the case and Michael Sullivan. Believe it or not, Tom Finneran can sleep at night. If Michael Sullivan wasn’t such a dumb empty suit, he wouldn’t be able to sleep at night. And by the way, I am not Tom Finneran.

  6. Anonymous

    Having read Finneran’s cogent yet concise commentary, we pretty much knew that already.

  7. Edward Prisby

    “Ask any trial attorney and he/she will tell you that you cannot predict what a jury would do.”Ain’t it the truth…

  8. Anonymous

    The Peter principle is clearly at work with Michael Sullivan, a lackluster state rep who hit the big time by currently being on two federal payrolls at once because of his pal Karl Rove. Dan Kennedy has this right: if they indict a ham sandwich, they can also fry one as well. What person in their right mind will potentially lose their freedom when faced with the challenge of convincing a jury about what the meaning of “plan” is? very clinton-esque. Finneran may have been no angel, but he was never corrupt, never enriched himself, and the US attorney IN COURT YESTERDAY said that they found that Finneran DID not try and whiten his district and that there was no evidence of racial gerrymandering. They said that they found the opposite in that he appeared to have given 26 years of public service to a minority majority district. why do we think the feds are the good guys but that the state legislators are not?

  9. mike_b1

    “Finneran … was never corrupt, never enriched himself … “I think it’s too early to make those calls.

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