By Ally Thibault
Salvatore “Sal” DiMasi, former Massachusetts Speaker of the House, has been sentenced to eight years in federal prison as a result of his lengthy corruption trial and further verdict appeal process. The third Massachusetts Speaker of the House in a row to be indicted, DiMasi’s case exemplifies the rampant corruption of our elected leaders on Beacon Hill today.
DiMasi has maintained his innocence throughout the high profile trial, which called important witnesses like Governor Deval Patrick and even a White House staffer to the stand. After the jury convicted him seven out of the nine counts he was charged with, DiMasi still appealed the verdict, saying he was “shocked” by the jury’s conclusion.
Born and raised in the North End, DiMasi was the first Italian-American to be Speaker of the House On the Hill, he was considered one of the most powerful lawmakers because of his record of dissenting votes on hot-button issues, like the universal health care bill in 2006 and the ongoing casino bill controversies.
But, to aid this image of all-powerful leader of the Massachusetts legislature, DiMasi racked up a hefty credit card debt. Prior to his time in politics, the Suffolk University Law School grad owned a high-powered law firm that brought him wealth. When he began working on the Hill, DiMasi’s law practice lagged, leaving him with less fortune than he was use to.
The result: he breached the trust of his city and state by being easily swayed into taking kickbacks from big corporations and lobbyists.
Now, as DiMasi refuses to apologize or fully concede that he is, in fact, guilty. He merely calls himself a “broken man”, and some friends and admirers in the North End continue to write letters of support.
Are these people ignorant or just stupid?
Even if you were DiMasi’s best friend, it would be hard to believe that your buddy has been wrongfully convicted at this point. Clearly, as supported by the judgment and evidence of a fair trial, DiMasi has engaged in illegal activity related to fraud and extortion. Even if you think he’s a great friend and person, he has still violated laws and the trust of the entire state.
The fact that there are still people supporting DiMasi shows the great problem in Commonwealth politics today. We, as Massachusetts’ voters, continue to support and elect corrupt leaders. The past three leaders of our state legislature have all been indicted on federal charges and there are several other of our recent lawmakers serving time. Former Senator Anthony Galluccio served six months in connection to a hit-and-run accident in 2009. Former Senator Dianne Wilkerson pleaded guilty to taking brides in 2012 and now is serving a three-and-a-half year sentence. And earlier in 2011, former Senator James Marzilli pleaded guilty to assaulting four women in Lowell and is now serving jail time.
With just the sheer number of our state politicians being accused and convicted, Massachusetts’ residents should already be horrified by their leaders’ behavior. And now that we have our third House Speaker in a row convicted, we should be demanding change from Beacon Hill’s corrupt and criminal business-as-usual.
So, Massachusetts’ voters, are you going to wait for the fourth consecutive Speaker of the House to be indicted or are you ready to take your frustrations to the ballot box and your local legislator’s mail box?
Let your leaders know that we’ve had enough of their corruption and criminality by expressing your thoughts to them through emails, phone calls, and ultimately, the elections in 2012.
Especially as young people in the state, we here at Suffolk can affect the elections by registering to vote (it’s easy to do, Google it!) and going to the ballot boxes to elect truly trustworthy leaders, instead of waiting to complain about the next corruption case. Every vote counts and the voice of Boston’s college students is just the kind of new and fresh opinion Beacon Hill needs to fix its failures.