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Michael E. McLaughlin pleads not guilty to fund-raising charges

Disgraced Chelsea housing chief Michael E. McLaughlin (left) is slated to plead guilty to state campaign finance charges today, court records indicate.

Wendy Maeda/Globe Staff/File

Disgraced Chelsea housing chief Michael E. McLaughlin (left) is slated to plead guilty to state campaign finance charges today, court records indicate.

Disgraced former Chelsea housing chief Michael E. McLaughlin, who collected a kingly salary while neglecting the needs of his low-income tenants, pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges he violated campaign finance laws by raising money for former lieutenant governor Timothy P. Murray.

McLaughlin, 67, was legally barred from political fund-raising while he was housing director, but a Globe investigation last year identified at least three fund-raising events at which McLaughlin appeared to be collecting money for Murray’s campaign. In all, a grand jury indicted McLaughlin on 12 counts of illegal fund-raising, nine of them in connection with Murray.

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“Over the course of the Murray Committee events, McLaughlin indirectly or directly solicited tens of thousands of dollars of illegal contributions,” argued Assistant Attorney General Edward A. Beagan in documents filed Thursday.

People familiar with the case had expected McLaughlin to accept a plea deal under which he would serve probation for the campaign violations after he finishes his federal prison term for concealing his outsized $360,000 salary from housing regulators.

In Suffolk Superior Court, both Beagan and defense attorney Thomas Hoopes said plea talks are underway, but neither side would disclose details. Hoopes and McLaughlin, who was released on personal recognizance, left the courthouse without commenting.

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In court, Hoopes asked the trial magistrate, Gary D. Wilson, to schedule the case so that McLaughlin would not miss future hearings, noting that the former executive director of the Chelsea Housing Authority is set to start serving his federal prison sentence soon.

Wilson set the next hearing for Oct. 24, saying a trial, if there is one, should be held within nine months.

McLaughlin’s indictment last week came the day Murray agreed to pay $80,000 to settle charges he received $50,000 in illegal campaign contributions, including money solicited by McLaughlin.

McLaughlin, who resigned from the Chelsea Housing Authority in 2011 after the Globe revealed his salary, was a key supporter of Murray. Murray had been considered a front-runner for governor in 2014 until he became mired in the McLaughlin scandal, and he resigned as lieutenant governor in May to run the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce.

John R. Ellement
can be reached at ellement@globe.com.
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