Feds Aim to Take Down Cambridge Lawyer Who Once Seemed Destined for Politics

Thursday, May 28, 2015

I read the news today of the federal indictment against Attorney Tim Flaherty, who once came close to winning the Cambridge-Everett seat in the Massachusetts Senate and now stands accused of tampering with a witness in a criminal case.  Oh, boy.

It was a big surprise to me that Flaherty was indicted. He’s smart and has always had his head screwed on straight.
Several years ago, my firm worked with Flaherty on a case before the Cambridge Zoning Board of Appeals for a client we had in common.   It was a quick assignment, over in less than a month.  I have not had any contact with him since.  I doubt that he could up with my name if he bumped into me on a sidewalk or subway car. 

If I did bump into him, I’d shake his hand hard and try to project as much warmth as I could.  I like him, I trust him, I respect him.
A federal grand jury says Flaherty paid a man who was the victim of a bigotry-tinged assault and battery to stop cooperating with the authorities who were prosecuting the alleged perpetrator of the assault, thus making the case go away.  At the time of the alleged payment, Flaherty was serving as the alleged perpetrator’s attorney. 

Flaherty’s client was arraigned in Cambridge District Court on December 15, 2014.  That afternoon, according to the indictment, Flaherty called the alleged victim, apologized to him on behalf of his client, and “then offered the victim $1,000 to $2,000 if the victim was willing to tell the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office that he was too busy to appear in court and was not interested in cooperating with authorities.”
The indictment further states that:

  • On December 17, 2014, “…Flaherty called the victim and informed him that he had $2,500 in cash that he was prepared to give to the victim in exchange for the victim not appearing in court to testify against Flaherty’s client.”
  • “On or about December 23, 2014, at the direction of law enforcement, the victim called defendant Flaherty and accepted Flaherty’s offer of $2,500 in exchange for the victim advising the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office that he was too busy to appear in court and was no longer interested in the case.”
  • “On or about December 24, 2014, the victim met defendant Flaherty at a coffee shop in Medford, MA.  Defendant Flaherty provided the victim with an envelope containing $2,500 cash and instructed the victim, among other things, that if anyone ‘from the court’ contacted the victim, ‘just f***king ignore it because they will never bother you.’ "

It’s probably safe to assume that law enforcement was audiotaping the 12-23-14 conversation and both audiotaping and videotaping the 12-24-14 encounter in the coffee shop.  If so, it could be difficult for Flaherty to dismiss the accusations as a he-said/I-said misunderstanding.
The son of a former Speaker of the Massachusetts House, Flaherty, age 50, has many loyal friends and admirers.  Some were quick to defend him publicly after the indictment was made public yesterday afternoon.

Terrence Kennedy, a popular Everett-based attorney and member of the Governor’s Council, which approves judicial nominations, was quoted in the Boston Herald as saying, “…He (Flaherty) may have chosen his words poorly, but this is a good, honest lawyer.  I am outraged by the indictment.  I’m outraged by the way it was handled.  Criminal defense is a minefield, and any of us can get blown up.”
Flaherty’s defenders pointed out to the Herald that criminal defense attorneys offer settlements to accusers every day of the week.

I am inclined to agree with Councilor Kennedy.  If the case goes to trial, we’ll likely find there’s a great deal of ambiguity in the recorded conversations between Flaherty and the alleged victim.  I can’t believe Flaherty would approach a situation like this in the ham-handed way described in the indictment.
Regardless of what I think, Flaherty is in a huge heap of trouble.  When the feds decide to come down on you with their full power and resources, as they have with Flaherty, they can ruin you even if, ultimately, you are found innocent.  You will lose most if not all of your assets in paying for a necessary first-class defense.  You will lose so much shine from your professional reputation that you can never come close to recovering your full earning power.  And you will suffer the endless scorn of cynics who will always say you are crooked even though you were exonerated in a court of law.  Then there’s the toll a case like this takes on your physical and emotional well-being.  All ugly. 

UPDATE:  On June 3, 2016, Flaherty pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of disrupting a state court proceeding , and was ordered to serve one year of probation.  He will not be able to practice law during that year and must report his conviction to the Massachusetts Board of Bar Overseers, which could penalize him in some fashion.

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