Ex-Mass. House Speaker DiMasi sentenced to 8 years

Former House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi was sentenced Friday to eight years in federal prison for using his clout to steer two state contracts to a software firm in exchange for kickbacks.

U.S. District Judge Mark Wolf also sentenced co-defendant Richard McDonough, a prominent Statehouse lobbyist, to seven years for his role in the scheme.

Prosecutors sought a 12 1/2-year sentence for DiMasi, convicted in June on charges of conspiracy, extortion and honest services fraud. Defense attorneys asked for three years, citing DiMasi's public service and strong family ties.

DiMasi, a Democrat, delivered an emotional speech in court Thursday, calling himself a broken man and asking Wolf to show mercy. DiMasi showed no emotion at sentencing.

Wolf will decide whether the men can remain free while they appeal their convictions, but said they won't have to report to prison for at least six weeks.

Prosecutors said DiMasi used the considerable clout of his office to steer two state contracts worth a combined $17.5 million to the software firm Cognos in exchange for payments in 2006 and 2007.

DiMasi received $65,000 in payments funneled through an unwitting law partner, and McDonough received $300,000 in payments disguised as consulting or lobbying fees, prosecutors said.

Richard Vitale, an accountant and close friend of DiMasi's, was acquitted by the jury. Prosecutors said Vitale's businesses received $600,000 through the scheme, some of which was used to set up a line of credit for DiMasi, who lost considerable income from his law practice after becoming speaker and was struggling with credit card debt.

Prosecutors also said DiMasi was planning for his eventual departure from the Statehouse and wanted seed money for a joint business venture with Vitale after his political career was over. Defense attorneys argued that the allegations involving Vitale shouldn't be considered in sentencing because the jury didn't convict Vitale of any crimes.

A fourth defendant in the case, former software salesman Joseph Lally, pleaded guilty before the trial and testified against the other three men.