Saying that he hopes to never “see the inside of Suffolk Superior Court again,” former state treasurer Timothy P. Cahill agreed to pay a $100,000 fine Friday for violating state ethics law during his 2010 campaign for governor.
The decision settles the public corruption charges against him and brings a close to a long-running political saga. It also ends a controversial prosecution that charged Cahill with conspiring to use a $1.5 million, publicly funded lottery ad blitz to boost his struggling, and ultimately unsuccessful, campaign for governor.
Friday’s agreement, which the state called the “biggest settlement of this kind in recent years,” avoids a retrial after a jury failed to reach a verdict, resulting in a mistrial in December.
The case was closely watched in political circles. It was the first major test of the state’s 2009 public corruption law, enacted in response to a corruption scandal involving former House speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi, and it drew attention to the ethics around incumbents using their office to burnish their public image. Some observers also viewed it as a pivotal case for Attorney General Martha Coakley, who prosecuted Cahill after facing criticism that she had failed to aggressively pursue corruption cases.
For Cahill, who rose from the Quincy City Council to statewide prominence, the criminal charges marked a low point in a once-promising political career. The settlement effectively resolves the criminal case against the former treasurer. Under the agreement, Cahill was placed on 18 months probation and must pay at least $25,000 a year toward the fine. During his probation, he cannot run for public office or accept public employment.
By avoiding another trial, Cahill can keep his state pension and professional licenses.
As part of the settlement, Cahill, 54, acknowledged civil wrongdoing in the case for the first time, agreeing that he “knew, or should have known” that he was attempting to use his official position” to help his campaign. But he did not admit to criminal behavior.
Christine Roach, a Suffolk Superior Court judge, accepted the settlement at a hearing Friday, saying it was “in the interests of justice.” Cahill’s lawyer, Brad Bailey, said the agreement was the “appropriate resolution in this case.”
In brief comments outside the courtroom, Cahill said he was glad “that this is behind me.”
“I’m very happy to have this over with,” he told reporters. “I’m very satisfied with the outcome, and hopefully this will be the last time I’ll ever see the inside of Suffolk Superior Court again.”
Cahill cannot use money from campaign funds to pay the fine.
Coakley, who has come under criticism for the decision to prosecute Cahill, praised the settlement. “With the treasurer’s admission of these violations and the payment of this fine, we believe this is a just resolution to the case,” she said.
She also defended the decision to pursue charges and said the sanction sent a clear message. “We believe this case had to be brought,” she said at a press conference following the hearing. “We believe the evidence was there.”
Coakley credited Cahill for taking responsibility for wrongdoing and said that his admission “would not have occurred if we had not brought the case.”
The lottery ads overlapped in “content, timing, and media markets” with Cahill’s campaign ads, which also focused on his oversight of the lottery, Coakley’s office said.
In court Friday, prosecutor James O’Brien said he was mindful of avoiding a retrial, noting there would have been “no guarantee” of the outcome.
At trial, prosecutors said Cahill’s campaign orchestrated the lottery advertisements in the lead-up to the 2010 gubernatorial election, immediately after receiving information that the treasurer’s management of the state lottery was “an enormous selling point” to voters.
Cahill’s lawyers countered that the ads were run to defend the lottery against Republican attacks and were unrelated to Cahill’s candidacy for governor. The lottery advertisements were focused on the agency’s successes and never referred to Cahill by name.
The prosecution hinged on a trail of e-mails, phone records, and text messages that appeared to show Cahill’s campaign team discussing the timing and content of the ads with executives from the advertising firm that handled the lottery’s account. The ads were scheduled to run from Sept. 29 to Nov. 30, 2010, at a cost of $1.4 million, about 75 percent of the lottery’s ad budget. Cahill pulled the ads in mid-October, after Coakley urged him to do so, “to avoid even the appearance of impropriety.”
At the time, Cahill never sought guidance from the State Ethics Commission or the Office of Campaign Finance about the ads, Coakley said.
He was indicted on conspiracy charges in April 2012. Two days later, Cahill stood outside the courthouse and maintained his innocence, saying that his name would be cleared. “No one,” he said at the time, “did anything wrong.”
John R. Ellement contributed
to this report. Peter Schworm
can be reached at schworm@