Sal DiMasi's Health Continues Down. Time for Governor to Ask for a Commutation.

Friday, February 14, 2014

It was good to see Norfolk County Sheriff Mike Bellotti’s letter recommending that Sal DiMasi be allowed to serve his prison sentence in Massachusetts: “Bring DiMasi Home,” Boston Herald, 2-13-14.

The feds have the cancer-stricken former House Speaker locked up in Butner, North Carolina, 684 miles from Boston.  Bellotti and many other people believe he should be serving his time instead at the Devens correctional institute, less than 30 miles from Boston.  There’s a hospital at Devens.

In his letter to the Herald editor, Bellotti reminded us that the judge who sentenced DiMasi  had recommended that DiMasi be put at Devens.  He wrote: 

“It is time to follow Judge Wolf’s recommendation.  During his 30 years on Beacon Hill, DiMasi did a lot of good for the people of Massachusetts.  He deserves to come home.”

On November 30, 2011, DiMasi began serving an eight-year sentence on bribery charges related to a shady deal involving the sale of software to the state.  Not long afterwards, he began complaining to prison authorities about his physical condition.  There were suspicious lumps on his neck he wanted checked.

DiMasi had to wait almost five full months to see a cancer specialist.  He underwent a series of tests.  About a month after that, he was informed he had Stage 4 tongue cancer.  The disease had spread from his mouth to his neck.  It was a threat to his life.

When DiMasi’s wife, Debbie, was interviewed by TV reporter Janet Wu last week, we learned he has also suffered from lung cancer since at least August, 2012.  Mrs. DiMasi said she found that out only recently when she obtained a copy of his medical file.  No one responsible for supervising his incarceration or treating his cancer had ever bothered to inform them of the cancer in his lungs, she lamented.

If your worst enemy needed top-notch cancer diagnostic services and treatment, you’d wish he was in the clutches of the federal prison system.

It was good to see a respected public official like Bellotti try publicly to do something for Sal DiMasi, who was quick to help the misfortunate and the downtrodden when he had the power of the Majority Leader of the House, and later Speaker, in his hands.

I’m still waiting for one prominent office holder to step forward and urge Governor Deval Patrick to appeal to President Obama to commute DiMasi’s sentence and set him free immediately.   Our president will take our governor’s call.  They’re close.

Janet Wu noted that, under federal guidelines, DiMasi will be eligible for early release on compassionate grounds once he’s served half of his eight-year sentence.  That would be in November, 2015, roughly one year, nine months from now.  He could be dead long before that.

I will always acknowledge the seriousness of the offenses DiMasi committed.  I will never be dismissive of the fact he betrayed the trust placed in him by the voters of his district and the citizens of our Commonwealth.

I will also never forget the way, when he was Majority Leader and Speaker, he helped people who were not from his district, folks who would never be in a position to do anything for him in return.  He had a big heart, an instinctively generous bent.

How much punishment is enough?

Sal DiMasi is 68 years old.  He lost his reputation, his license to practice law, his means of earning a living, his pension.  He exhausted his savings in his legal defense.   Then he lost his freedom and his health.   Recent reports indicate that he’s lost a great deal of weight and has difficulty swallowing solid food.  If that is not the definition of a “broken man,” I’ve never seen one.

Here’s another pertinent consideration:

If DiMasi had pleaded guilty before trial, he would have received a much lighter sentence, maybe as “light” as four years, in which case he’d now be eligible for a compassionate release because his health is so bad.

Yes, a significant part of his punishment is due the fact he believed in his innocence and had the temerity to act on that belief.  It’s always been that way when defendants deal with the prosecution.  It doesn’t make it right.  Too often it makes for too much punishment.

No comments:

Post a Comment