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

The trouble with federal plea bargains

My friend and occasional collaborator Harvey Silverglate has a terrific commentary in the Boston Globe on the plea deal reached by federal prosecutors with Joseph Lally in the corruption case against former Massachusetts House Speaker Sal DiMasi.

Lally, a former associate of DiMasi’s, received quite a goody bag in return for his plea: a two- to three-year prison sentence, compared to the nine he might have gotten if he’d gone to trial and been found guilty, as well as the right to keep his home and $30,000 in savings.

“But leniency comes at a price,” Silverglate observes. “Lally has agreed to provide testimony that will help prosecutors. The dog gets the bone only if it performs the trick.”

Here’s what I wrote in the Guardian about Silverglate’s book, “Three Felonies a Day,” which painstakingly documents numerous examples of overreach and abuse by federal prosecutors.

As the case against DiMasi continues to unfold, I’ll be watching for objective, documentary evidence regarding his guilt or innocence.

Photo (cc) by Amy and republished here under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

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  1. MJ Coughlin

    @Dan I haven’t read Mr. Silverglate’s book so I won’t question that he may well have documented prosecutorial abuses. But I read this morning’s column and I think he is undercutting his own argument. From everything that has been reported previously it appears to me as if Mr. DiMasi and his cronies deserve about as much sympathy as Diane Wilkerson. Sal wasn’t caught on camera, but are we to beleive that someone misquoted him or took him out of context when he said, “we’re finally getting some of that business around here”(paraphrasing, can’t find the direct quote)in reaction to the Cognos arrangment?

    Like Wilkerson, DiMasi had a pretty progressive voting record, and yes he was the last man standing against casinos while he was Speaker. But it seems hard to refute the evidence that he took a series of bribes to help Cognos win that contract. If his lawyers get him off because of the uncertainty around the statute under which he is being prosecuted I’ll be looking for evidence of an unfair application of justice when this case is inevitably compared to the recent cases against Wilkerson and Chuck Turner.

  2. Dan Farnkoff

    Three years is no joke-it’s about what Chuck Turner got for taking $1000. Not much of a “bone”, really, and I doubt Lally would have agreed to it if he was innocent.

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