Former state treasurer Timothy P. Cahill walked the walk this past week when he backed up his public claims of innocence with testimony — under oath — at his corruption trial.
It distinguished Cahill from former House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi, who declared his innocence when he was accused of taking kickbacks, but never testified on his own behalf before being convicted in federal court in 2011.
The decision meant Cahill was able to lay out his defense through friendly questions from his own attorneys. But it also meant he had to endure a cross-examination by Assistant Attorney General James O’Brien, the prosecutor.
Cahill is accused of using $1.8 million in lottery funds to air television commercials to boost his lagging 2010 campaign for governor, not ticket sales. The case is supposed to go to the jury on Tuesday.
Cahill largely maintained a calm air during more than three hours on the witness stand, becoming testy with O’Brien only near the end. Over the course of the questioning, though, the Quincy Democrat was confronted with an electronic paper trail that undercut some of his answers on the witness stand.
For example, asked at one point about an e-mail, Cahill would only acknowledge that it had come into his inbox. O’Brien rebutted by showing it was later forwarded by someone with control over that inbox.
At another point, Cahill said he didn’t recall seeing an e-mail that he was copied on, prompting O’Brien to point out he wrote a response to it.
In a blog posting almost precisely two years ago, Brad Bailey, one of Cahill’s attorneys, criticized the decision of former Boston City Councilor Chuck Turner to testify at his own corruption trial — though the lawyer said he understood the impulse.
“No matter how many times the judge properly instructs the jury on the defendant’s absolute right not to testify (and how they may not hold his silence against him), one’s instinct and inclination is to get on the stand and deny the allegations,” Bailey wrote. “Moreover, it is also the defendant’s absolute right to testify, if he is intent on doing so. While trial counsel may certainly, and often does, advise against it, sometimes in very strong terms, if a defendant insists on testifying, there is nothing his attorney can do to stop it, unless he knows his client is about to commit perjury.”
Turner was later convicted and sentenced to three years in prison.
UMass launches TV ad
series featuring Meehan
As Cahill defends himself against allegations of using state resources to boost his political fortunes, the University of Massachusetts has kicked off its own ad series featuring a prominent former politician often mentioned as a possible US Senate candidate.
Former Representative Martin T. Meehan joins basketball star Julius Erving, designer Joseph Abboud, and other successful graduates of the university system in television ads that are halfway through a six-week run.
University officials, however, dismiss any suggestion the Meehan ad is part of a closet campaign to boost the former congressman, should Senator John F. Kerry resign to join the Obama administration.
Meehan quit Congress in 2007 to become chancellor of his alma mater, UMass Lowell, but still retains a $4.6 million campaign war chest — larger than virtually any other politician in the state.
“I think the circumstances that make me comfortable running the ads are numerous,” said Robert Connolly, the university system’s vice president for communications. “There is no vacancy, Chancellor Meehan has spoken authoritatively that he won’t seek office if there is a vacancy, and he wasn’t a candidate when there was a vacancy for Senate three years ago.”
The ad also was shot in May, long before Obama won re-election. It is running now as high school seniors fill out their college applications.
Putting a positive spin
on damage control
Chris Lehane, a Lawrence native who went on to Amherst College and Harvard Law School before becoming a spokesman for Vice President Al Gore, has co-written a book about a topic with which he is too familiar: damage control.
“Masters of Disaster” offers a top-10 list of lessons Lehane and business partner Mark Fabiani learned defending Bill Clinton in Kenneth Starr’s Whitewater investigation and Goldman Sachs in the aftermath of the 2008 financial meltdown.
They include full disclosure and avoiding anything that would inflame the media firestorm, and include lessons learned about social media use. The book goes on sale Dec. 11.Glen Johnson is lead blogger for Political Intelligence, available online at www.boston.com/politics. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.