John M. Lynch, the former City Hall aide who took a $50,000 bribe to help a developer, was sentenced to 40 months behind bars Friday in a case that has rocked City Hall and cast a dark cloud over the city’s development process.
Speaking before his sentence was delivered in federal court Friday afternoon, Lynch apologized to his family for the “shame I brought upon them,” and to “citizens of Boston ... they trusted me and I abused it.”
Judge Patti Saris said she couldn’t understand why Lynch had chosen this path: “All of us are faced with temptation, and you yielded and committed a very serious crime.”
Lynch was ordered to forfeit $50,000 from the bribe and pay $15,000 in restitution for tax fraud. His sentence also included a year of supervised release.
Lynch, 67, had pleaded guilty hoping to get a 30-month sentence, with his lawyer arguing in court records that he is a lifelong public servant, with strong ties to the community. Lynch regrets taking the bribe, what he called an aberration, and is remorseful, his lawyer argued. Lynch is married, with two adult sons, and he suffers from coronary heart disease. He has never been convicted of a crime before.
In court on Friday, Lynch’s attorney, Hank Brennan called the bribe an aberration that should not taint 40 years of public service. “When he was confronted, he embraced responsibility," Brennan said. "He fully admitted everything. He knows what he did was wrong.”
But prosecutors called for a four-year sentence, saying Lynch betrayed the public’s trust and eroded the integrity of the city’s development approval process at a time that a building boom is changing the landscape of Boston. Last week, prosecutors released a photograph in court filings of Lynch being handed a stack of cash that constituted part of the $50,000 bribe.
When the photo of Lynch taking a bribe was released last week, Brennan said in court Friday afternoon, Lynch wasn’t upset or emotional over the embarrassment. “There was no more shame to suffer. He’d accepted what he did was so disappointing to so many.”
But prosecutors said Lynch used his decades in the development arena to enrich himself. “In this case Mr. Lynch took bribe payment after bribe payment after bribe payment,” prosecutor Dustin Chao said Friday in court. "This sentence is about this defendants betrayal of the public trust.”
Lynch, who worked in City Hall for more than two decades, pleaded guilty in September to charges that he took $50,000 to help a developer secure an extension of his permit for a South Boston condo development, by persuading a zoning board member in 2017 to back the move after it had previously been rejected. Federal prosecutors said the permit extension allowed the developer to sell the property at a profit of more than $500,000.
Prosecutors have not identified the developer by name, and would not say whether he faces charges. The Globe has previously reported he is Steven Turner, a former city employee who had a longstanding friendship with Lynch, and that the property at issue is on H Street. Turner, who has not been charged, has not responded to requests for comment.
Lynch stepped down just before the charges were announced in August. In October, William “Buddy” Christopher, who at the time was head of the city agency that reviews projects for the zoning board, the inspectional services department, resigned from another top-level City Hall position.
In addition, zoning board member Craig Galvin, a real estate agent in Dorchester, stepped down in September.
Federal authorities did not name the zoning board member whose vote Lynch had sought, saying only that he runs a real estate business and worked with Lynch on at least two property transactions. But Galvin worked as a consultant on a two-unit condo development that Lynch built in his Dorchester neighborhood that sold for nearly $1.5 million. Also, Walsh officials have acknowledged federal investigators have subpoenaed documents related to Galvin’s work at the ZBA.
Galvin has declined to comment through a spokeswoman, saying only that his resignation will allow him to pursue his professional real estate work.
Federal authorities say that an investigation is ongoing, but declined to comment further. Mayor Martin J. Walsh said in a statement Thursday: “I have made clear that I expect every employee to conduct themselves with honesty, integrity, and respect for the public we serve.”
The mayor also noted that in September he asked the law firm Sullivan & Worcester to review the ZBA setup and recommend changes.