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

Finneran flashback

The Boston Globe today reports that Tom Finneran is seeking a pardon from President Bush, and that four former Massachusetts governors are supporting his bid. In 2005, Harvey Silverglate explained in the Boston Phoenix why Bush should grant Finneran’s request.

I’m not sure Finneran deserves to be pardoned for the lame talk show he hosts (now co-hosts) on WRKO Radio (AM 680). But the former Massachusetts House speaker is no criminal.

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  1. Steve

    Finneran may need to wait a bit. I was hearing about a 5-year time period being necessary before a pardon is considered, but I don’t know if that’s law or just usual practice.I can’t wait to hear Howie’s reaction this afternoon.

  2. ogre

    Practice, tradition only, Steve.Quaint, etc.Just watch the pardon-list-to-be, which should be a doozy.

  3. tvoh

    No pardon! People who are entrusted with making laws should not transgress a just law. Joe Average would have got jail for perjury.Actually, Dan, unless you have evidence that he did not lie under oath, he is, by definition, a criminal.That as Jerry Williams used to say, he is “not a bad guy” is irrelevant.

  4. bob gardner

    Of course Finneran’s a criminal. Every once in a while, you come out with these revelations from out of nowhere. It reminds me of the time you wrote an article documenting how Jeff Jacoby had copied word for word and article off the internet, a few inconsequential changes then declaring that it was not plagiarism. Finneran was convicted of a serious crime–he’s a criminal. And it was far from a victimless crime. As a resident of the largest town in the state without any of its own residents in the state house, I can testify to that. Lying to cover up the back room deals that kept incumbents in safe seats is something to be taken seriously.

  5. mike_b1

    No criminal? He pleaded guilty. Most innocent people fight. Hell, most guilty people fight. They had him dead to rights.

  6. MeTheSheeple

    If I’m reading this right, Silverglate’s item was written before Finneran’s guilty plea and guesses about technicalities; it’s thus not direct-on, or necessarily convincing, in the way you’re suggesting it is.A quick search turned up this Boston Globe piece, which includes this paragraph:The seven-page document, signed by Finneran on Jan. 3, says “Defendant expressly and unequivocally admits that he committed the crime so charged in the indictment, and that he is in fact guilty of the offense so charged in the indictment.”

  7. Dan Kennedy

    MTS: We learned nothing new after Harvey’s piece was published. There are many reasons for which people plead guilty. Guilt is only one reason.

  8. Brad

    As I just suggested over at Adam’s blog, is it too hard to believe that Finneran planned this…or something like this…from the start? His talkshow gig gives him a powerful position to “lobby” on his own behalf; give me a pardon or I’ll attack you relentlessly on the air.Anyways, I’m amazed that WRKO puts up with this crap. Fire Tom, Hire Steve! (LeVeille)Just because you haven’t violated the letter of the law doesn’t mean you’re not guilty…and Finneran violated the spirit of many laws six ways to Sunday. If he wanted to be innocent, maybe he shouldn’t have been such a slimebag. I’ve always rather strongly suspected that Finneran pleaded guilty because Sullivan had juicier dirt on him…AND ON OTHER POLS. Dirt that might’ve been even harder to prove in court, but would’ve been far more damning on the public stage. Everyone else got together and demanded Tom take one for the team. Tom gets to plead guilty to a comparatively minor charge and rides off into the sunset. No muss, no fuss, Tom’s gone, everyone’s happy.The question is whether Tom is now breaking the unwritten rules. If he is, expect a fierce fight. If he was always promised a pardon, expect this to sail through with little fanfare.

  9. O'Reilly

    To the public, it looks like Tom lied in sworn testimony and then pleaded guilty that he lied in sworn testimony. Perjury is a serious offense because it obstructs justice. Without the truth, we cannot have justice. I’m surprised at the cavalier attitude about lying under oath. Anyway, if the truth is different from what is described above, the public needs to know the story before they’ll think of Finneran as honest broker of the truth rather than a lying pol who did something illegal and lied about it to cover it up. He wants his law license back too and the bar is inclined to give it to him. The SJC will decide. Again, why does a lying perjurer deserve a law license?

  10. Dan Kennedy

    Finneran is not a perjurer. He pled guilty to obstruction of justice, a less serious offense.

  11. Nial Liszt

    **Finneran is not a perjurer. He pled guilty to obstruction of justice**Is O.J. a murderer?

  12. O-FISH-L

    With the Rod Blagojevich and Bill Richardson scandals so fresh, I’d have to wonder why President Bush would want to go anywhere near a pardon for another corrupt Democrat leader at this time. Timing is everything, and the timing of this isn’t very good. Perhaps Finneran’s shared view with Bush on the sanctity of human life will offer the President some solace as he considers the pardon.

  13. O'Reilly

    He was indicted in June 2005 in a criminal case for both perjury and obstruction of justice. He plead to the later.Your assertion that one of those charges is less egregious than the other is a baseless claim. Both crimes described his actions in not being truthful in his testimony (under oath) about his involvement in redistricting. Neither charges were proven ni the court of law because he was willing to agree that he was guilty of obstruction in return for some acceptable consideration(s). You are not the only person I respect who thinks highly of Finneran. I have another friend who does to. I’d like to understand that better. Why could he not tell the truth? He’s a lawyer for chrissake. He understands truth is the engine of the justice system and that without the truth, we have no justice. He did not testify truthfully in a case about redistricting, which determined who we get to vote for for Congress. It’s a not insignificant issue.Until I learn more about what happened and why, I’m completely against him getting a law license and a pardon.

  14. O'Reilly

    The US Attorney dropped three counts of perjury and jail time, in return Finneran plead guilty to obstruction and agreed not to run for office for five years. The agreement states “On November 14, 2003, he made misleading and false statements under oath in US District Court” commonly known as perjury. WIKI: On January 5, 2007, prior to the start of the scheduled criminal trial[9] Finneran pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice charges in exchange for federal prosecutors’ dropping perjury charges against him. The plea bargain allowed him to avoid jail time.[8] Federal prosecutors and lawyers for Finneran recommended that the once-powerful figure on Beacon Hill receive 18 months of unsupervised probation and a $25,000 fine. In return, Finneran agreed not to run for any elected political position in state, federal or municipal government for five years after his sentencing date. The US Attorney’s office agreed to dismiss three counts of perjury against Finneran.Finneran pleaded guilty to one count of obstruction of justice. On November 14, 2003, he made misleading and false statements under oath in US District Court, according to the agreement. The seven-page document, signed by Finneran on January 3, 2007 states, “Defendant expressly and unequivocally admits that he committed the crime so charged in the indictment, and that he is in fact guilty of the offense so charged in the indictment.” Finneran faced 16 to 21 months in prison if he was convicted on all counts stemming from criminal charges that he misrepresented his role in the creation of a legislative redistricting map that diluted the clout of minority voters.The plea agreement documents show Finneran admits to making false and misleading statements while testifying under oath about whether he had seen and reviewed a redistricting plan before it was filed with the clerk of the House of Representatives. In a transcript of his testimony, Finneran repeatedly denied seeing the plan until it was filed with the House clerk, when all members of the House see the plan.Finneran is expected to lose his $30,000-a-year pension after his plea. A decision in 2006 by the state Supreme Judicial Court permitted a pension to be revoked in a similar case of breach of public trust. [10] His attorney, Richard Egbert, has said Finneran never claimed he was totally uninvolved in the redistricting process and that he acknowledged in his testimony having about “half a dozen” conversations with leaders of the redistricting committee.

  15. acf

    If Finneran gets the pardon, will that open the door for him to reclaim his state pension and license to practice law? He entered into a plea agreement to a lesser violation and deserves his punishment. I say no pardon. People like this have to take their punishment and not skate away under a hail of favors. How else are others going to learn that they can’t violate the law and the ethics of their offices?

  16. Amused

    The crime to which Finneran pleaded guilty doesn’t matter since he admitted to the facts.Having said that, this prosecution was an abomination. The fact that he was asked the questions in a deposition in the first place is uncomfortably close to the principle of legislative immunity, since the depo was given in a civil action and not as part of a criminal prosecution. Does this mean I can go sue somebody and bring pols in to question them under oath about their motivations for political positions?Similarly, there are aspects of the Blagojevich prosecution that are uncomfortable, since it appears that making political deals is becoming a criminal offense. I see no criminality in Pol A saying “yeah, I’ll appoint Joe Blow to the post but I want political favors A, B and C in return.” Asking for something for private gain is another matter, and it appears that Blagojevich crossed the line, even though the prosecutors seem to include political horse-trading as a criminal offense. If quid pro quo in politics now a crime, then quid pro quo in business is a crime and there isn’t a politician or businessperson who has risen above the position of town meeting member or data entry clerk who is safe from malicious prosecution.Fish, where’s the evidence that Finneran is “corrupt?” You may not like what he did, and he may well have obstructed justice or committed perjury, but where is the corruption as that word is currently understood, as receiving undue private gain as a reward for a public, political or ministerial act?? Somehow, I suspect the answer will come in Carr-speak.Politically, I am no Finneran supporter, however the prosecution — and the events that led to the prosecution — are an absurdity and the pardon ought to be granted

  17. Dan Kennedy

    You are not the only person I respect who thinks highly of Finneran.Actually, I don’t. I think he’s an intelligent, able guy, but his speakership was a failure both in terms of the abusive, dictatorial approach he took and the conservative agenda he promoted. His shortcomings as a radio talk-show host are obvious. He can be quite personable and has a reputation for having led an exemplary personal life, so I give him credit for that.But read Amused, above. There is much wisdom there.

  18. O-FISH-L

    Amused, you mention potential “Carr speak” as if it’s me (or Howie Carr) who is somehow tailoring the definition of corruption to suit our needs, when in fact, it’s you who clearly narrows the definition.Rather than Carr, I’ll go right to a neutral source,, to see whether or not their definition of corruption describes Finneran. (Random House 2006 unabridged):cor⋅rupt   /kəˈrʌpt/ Pronunciation [kuh-ruhpt] –adjective 1. guilty of dishonest practices, as bribery; lacking integrity; crooked: a corrupt judge. 2. debased in character; depraved; perverted; wicked; evil: a corrupt society. 3. made inferior by errors or alterations, as a text. 4. infected; tainted. 5. decayed; putrid —I’ve included only the first five definitions for the sake of brevity and because all but #3 fit Finneran like a glove. Even #3 would fit if “as a text” wasn’t appended. Finneran, a then veteran attorney and Speaker of the House, has admitted –after acknowledging his sobriety and sound state of mind– that he committed the federal FELONY of obstruction justice. He did this knowing that a GUILTY finding would be entered onto his permanent record AND perhaps more importantly, knowing that he had a right to trial by Judge or a 12 man jury of his peers but waived it. Further, the Judge had the obligation to reject the plea if there wasn’t sufficient evidence, but of course it was accepted because there was plenty.Finneran has freely admitted that he is (a) guilty of dishonest practices, (b) lacking integrity (c) dishonest, not to mention debased in character, tainted decayed, etc. Finneran is indeed corrupt.That said, a Republican governor as conservative as Speaker Finneran we’ve never had in recent times. Politically and personally I love the sinner, but hate the sin.

  19. O'Reilly

    The question then goes to whether rules for deposition change when the deposed is being asked question about legislative deliberative process. I assume standing was never a question in the civil suit over redistricting. What about the issue of exploring deliberative process, is there precedent? Those issues notwithstanding, why could Finneran not be entirely forthcoming in his answers? He was charge with perjury and obstruction for the answers he chose to give. He did not contest the charges, he plead to obstruction. Seems to me, if he had a valid argument for how he was in a position to withhold the information in question, he would have made his case. That said, is the US Attorney in Boston on Rove’s speed dial taking down Democrat politiicans in high places in pursuit of a permanent majority? I wish I understand the law better.

  20. mike_b1

    O’Reilly is right: Finneran was elected to office and, short of national security obligations that he didn’t have, had no reason to be anything but honest and unequivocal with the electorate. He admitted guilt because it saved his hide.

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