United States v. Dimasi, 083011 MADC, 09-10166-MLW

Docket NºCr. 09-10166-MLW
Opinion JudgeMARK L. WOLF, District Judge.
Case DateAugust 30, 2011
CourtUnited States District Courts, 1st Circuit, District of Massachusetts




Cr. No. 09-10166-MLW

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts.

August 30, 2011


MARK L. WOLF, District Judge.


In this case defendants Salvatore DiMasi, the former Speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, Richard McDonough, Richard Vitale and Joseph Lally were charged with conspiracy to commit three crimes: honest services mail fraud; honest services wire fraud; and extortion under color of official right. See Count 1 and 18 U.S.C. §§371, 1341, 1343, 1346, 1951. The four defendants were each also charged with three counts of honest services mail fraud, see Counts 2, 3, and 4, and four counts of honest services wire fraud, see Counts 5, 6, 7 and 8. In addition, DiMasi was charged with extortion under color of official right. See Count 9. The essence of all of the charges was that Lally conspired with his codefendants and caused his employer, Cognos Corporation, and later his company, Montvale Solutions, to make payments in exchange for official acts by DiMasi as Speaker to benefit Cognos. It was alleged that payments for this corrupt purpose were made to DiMasi personally, in the form of purported referral fees, through his unwitting associate in the practice of law, Stephen Topazio, and to Vitale and McDonough.

Lally pled guilty and agreed to cooperate with the government. As a result, Lally was called by the government and testified at trial. Topazio was also called by the government and testified.

After a six-week trial, DiMasi and McDonough were each convicted of conspiracy, two counts of mail fraud, and three counts of wire fraud. In addition, DiMasi was convicted of extortion. DiMasi and McDonough were each found not guilty of one count of mail fraud and one count of wire fraud. Vitale was found not guilty of all of the charges against him.

DiMasi and McDonough have each filed motions for a judgment of acquittal pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 29 or, alternatively, for a new trial pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 33. DiMasi and McDonough argue, in essence, that: the court erroneously admitted certain evidence against them as coconspirator statements under Federal Rule of Evidence 801(d)(2)(E); the court's rulings on some other evidentiary issues and its jury instructions were incorrect in material respects; and the evidence was insufficient to prove them guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of any or all of the charges. DiMasi and McDonough have each filed several lengthy memoranda in support of their contentions. The government has opposed defendants' motions in its own series of substantial submissions.

The defendants' assertions concerning the court's evidentiary rulings and jury instructions essentially reiterate arguments that were made, carefully considered, and decided by the court before and/or during trial. The reasons for those decisions have previously been explained in detail on the record and, in some instances, summarized in various orders. Defendants have not persuaded the court that any of its evidentiary rulings or instructions were erroneous.

In addition, essentially for the reasons explained fully by the government in its submissions and summarized in this Memorandum, when viewed in the light most favorable to the verdicts, there was ample evidence for the jury to find beyond a reasonable doubt that DiMasi and McDonough were guilty of all of the charges on which they were convicted. Therefore, the Rule 29 motions for acquittal are not meritorious.

In contrast to an analysis under Rule 29, in deciding a Rule 33 motion for a new trial, the court may weigh the evidence, evaluate the credibility of the witnesses, and order a new trial if the evidence predominates heavily against the verdicts and allowing them to stand would result in a miscarriage of justice. In essence, Rule 33 provides a means to rectify only a result that the court, on reflection, regards as seriously erroneous. This is not such a case. At the conclusion of all of the evidence presented at trial the court found that the government had proven by a preponderance of the credible evidence that DiMasi, McDonough, Lally, and Vitale were each members of the conspiracy charged in Count 1 of the indictment and, therefore, that all of the statements conditionally admitted during trial were admissible against them under Rule 801(d)(2)(E). See United States v. Petrozziello, 548 F.2d 20 (1st Cir. 1977) (the "Petrozziello rulings"). The court reached this conclusion because it was, and remains, persuaded that, beginning no later than December, 2004, DiMasi, McDonough, and Lally conspired to have payments made to DiMasi in exchange for DiMasi performing official acts as Speaker to benefit Cognos when DiMasi was asked to do so or when the opportunity arose. Later that conspiracy evolved to include payments to Vitale and McDonough, with the payments to Vitale being for DiMasi's benefit. The court also was, and remains, persuaded, that Vitale joined that conspiracy in about May, 2006.1 Therefore, the court concludes that the jury's verdicts of guilty were reasonable, and it is not permissible or appropriate to grant defendants' request for a new trial.

In essence, despite the energetic efforts of able and imaginative defense counsel, the government proved to the jury, and the court, that DiMasi and McDonough participated in a classic scheme to sell DiMasi's official powers as Speaker to Cognos and to structure that exchange in a way intended to keep their corrupt conduct from being detected and demonstrated. That scheme has failed.

Therefore, DiMasi's and McDonough's motions for acquittal or a new trial are not being allowed. Instead, they will be sentenced on September 8, 2011, as previously ordered.


A. The Legal Standard

Rule 29(c)(2) provides that, "[i]f the jury has returned a guilty verdict, the court may set aside the verdict and enter an acquittal." The court must "scrutinize the evidence in the light most compatible with the verdict, resolve all credibility disputes in the verdict's favor, and then reach a judgment about whether a rational jury could find guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.'" United States v. Merlino, 592 F.3d 22, 29 (1st Cir. 2010) (quoting United States v. Olbres, 61 F.3d 967, 970 (1st Cir. 1995)). In making this sufficiency inquiry, the court must consider the direct and circumstantial evidence, as well as all plausible inferences drawn from it. See United States v. Rivera Calderon, 578 F.3d 78, 88 (1st Cir. 2009). This includes all of the evidence submitted to the jury regardless of whether it was properly admitted. See United States v. Diaz, 300 F.3d 66, 77 (1st Cir. 2002).

In deciding a Rule 29 motion, the court may not "weigh the evidence or make any credibility judgments." Merlino, 592 F.3d at 29; see United States v. Ayala-Garcia, 574 F.3d 5, 11 (1st Cir. 2009). Rather, credibility issues must be resolved in favor of the verdict. See Rivera Calderon, 578 F.3d at 88 (quoting United States v. Perez-Ruiz, 353 F.3d 1, 7 (1st Cir. 2003)).

The court must decide if the evidence is sufficient to permit a rational jury to find each essential element to have been proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Olbres, 61 F.3d at 970. However, the government does not have to rule out every hypothesis "congenial to a finding of innocence.'" United States v. Valle, 72 F.3d 210, 216 (1st Cir. 1995) (quoting United States v. Gifford, 17 F.3d 462, 467 (1st Cir. 1994)).

Moreover, the government is not bound by all of the evidence that it presents. However, if the government introduces evidence contrary to the inferences it wants the jury to draw, it must introduce other direct or circumstantial evidence to relieve itself of the effect flowing from the evidence introduced. See Rodgers v. United States, 402 F.2d 830, 833-35 (9th Cir. 1968); United States v. Canessa, 534 F.2d 402, 404 n.* (1st Cir. 1976)(distinguishing Rodgers).

The acquittal of one defendant on a particular charge is not relevant to the analysis of whether there was sufficient evidence to prove another defendant guilty of any charge, including the same charge, even if the acquittal and the finding of guilt are logically inconsistent. See United States v. Powell, 469 U.S. 57, 68 (1984); United States v. Rogers, 121 F.3d 12, 16 (1st Cir. 1997); United States v. Bucuvalas, 909 F.2d 593, 597-98 (1st Cir. 1990).2

In Bucuvalas, for example, the First Circuit held that even where a defendant's sole alleged co-conspirator was acquitted of conspiracy, the defendant's conviction for participation in the conspiracy should not be disturbed if there was sufficient evidence to find the defendant guilty. See 909 F.2d at 594, 596-97. The court explained that "the acquittal of all conspirators but one does not, under Powell, necessarily indicate that the jury found no agreement to act." Bucuvalas, 909 F.2d at 596; see also Rogers, 121 F.3d at 16. Rather, "[i]t is equally possible that the jury, convinced of guilt, properly reached its conclusion on one offense, and then through mistake, compromise, or lenity, arrived at an inconsistent conclusion on the other offense.'" Bucuvalas, 909 F.2d at 595 (quoting Powell, 469 U.S. at 65 (brackets omitted)). In any event, in deciding the Rule 29 motions, the court is not required to attempt to divine the jury's logic or reasoning in finding Vitale not guilty. Id. at 597 n.8.

Consequently, even to the extent that certain theories of guilt regarding DiMasi and McDonough might arguably be logically inconsistent with Vitale's acquittal, the only question for Rule 29 purposes is whether the evidence, taken as a whole and considered...

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