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BOSTON – Former House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi is appealing his prison sentence, with his attorneys arguing that federal prosecutors failed to prove that he accepted payments in exchange for official acts and that the eight-year prison sentence a judge imposed was far too harsh, The Associated Press reported.
The 67-year-old Boston Democrat, who has been diagnosed with tongue cancer, was convicted in June 2011 of charges including conspiracy, extortion and honest-services fraud. He began an eight-year prison sentence last November.
DiMasi resigned as speaker before being indicted in January 2009. He was accused of using his clout to steer two lucrative state contracts to the software company Cognos in exchange for payments of $65,000 that were funneled through his law firm.
The 103-page appeal was filed with the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. His lawyers are asking that the convictions be reversed or a new trial ordered. They also argue that regardless of the outcome of the appeal, DiMasi should be resentenced because the eight-year term was “unreasonable” and in effect punished him for the crimes of past Massachusetts politicians, the AP said.
Previous political corruption in the region historically brought considerably less “harsh” sentences, the appeal says. DiMasi’s attorneys are also suggesting that U.S. District Court Judge Mark Wolf sought to make an example of DiMasi by imposing the lengthier term.
Co-defendant Richard McDonough, a Statehouse lobbyist and DiMasi friend, was also convicted at the trial and is serving a seven-year prison sentence. Another DiMasi associate, businessman Richard Vitale, was acquitted. •