Saying that former Massachusetts House speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi had conspired to sell his office and was an example of the American dream gone wrong, a federal judge today sentenced DiMasi to eight years in prison for steering millions of dollars in state contracts to a software company and secretly profiting from the scheme.
US District Court Judge Mark Wolf also ordered DiMasi to serve two years of supervised release and to forfeit $65,000. DiMasi, a lawyer and veteran lawmaker who had risen to be one of the state’s most powerful politicians, showed no emotion as the judge announced the sentence.
In remarks explaining his decision that stretched about 20 minutes, Wolf pointed out that DiMasi had been the state’s first Italian-American speaker and said DiMasi’s life had been “a great American story” that had gone awry.
“As has happened before, this is a dream that’s been corrupted. Unfortunately, none of this is totally new,” he said as DiMasi stood before him.
“Corruption has very real victims, generally and in this case. ... Mr. DiMasi sold out and betrayed many of the people who wrote lovely letters on his behalf,” Wolf said of the letters of support for DiMasi that were submitted to the court before the sentencing.
Noting that DiMasi was the third Massachusetts House speaker in a row to be convicted in federal court, Wolf also said he was disturbed that DiMasi still had support from some lawmakers who felt he had done nothing wrong. Wolf said he felt the case showed that corruption was a regular occurrence on Beacon Hill.
Wolf had said Thursday that DiMasi could be sentenced to as much as 19 to 24 years in prison under federal sentencing guidelines -- far more than the 12 years and seven months recommended by prosecutors and the three years recommended by DiMasi’s lawyers.
“I appear before you today a broken man,’’ DiMasi told Wolf Thursday, in a tearful plea for leniency on the first day of his two-day sentencing hearing. “I have lost everything I have worked so hard for in my life. …They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions. I don’t want to go to hell, and I certainly don’t want to go to prison.”
DiMasi and his co-defendant, Richard McDonough, both 66, were convicted by a federal jury in June of conspiracy and honest services fraud. DiMasi was also convicted of extortion. They schemed to help Cognos, a Burlington software company, win two state contracts in exchange for secret payments.
Wolf also sentenced McDonough today to seven years in prison and two years of supervised release and ordered him to forfeit $250,000 and pay a $50,000 fine.
Wolf said he would consider whether to let the two men stay free while they appeal their cases, but if he decides against it, they will have to report to prison at noon on Nov. 16.
Wolf said he could have imposed a tougher sentence on DiMasi because of the actual costs of the contracts to the state. He also said he had long argued for tougher sentences for white collar crime, particularly public corruption.
“You knew what was lawfully permitted,” he told DiMasi. “But you also knew that taking bribes was unlawful, and that’s what you did. ... You knew it, and that’s why the bribes and kickbacks were so carefully structured.”
The contracts totaled $17.5 million and were awarded in 2006 and 2007. DiMasi received $65,000 directly and prosecutors say he planned to benefit from hundreds of thousands of dollars that were paid to his associates.
DiMasi resigned and was indicted in 2009, a year after a series of Globe stories exposed the scandal.
A third codefendant, DiMasi friend and financial adviser Richard Vitale, was acquitted of all charges. A fourth man, Joseph P. Lally Jr., pleaded guilty and cooperated with prosecutors.
He testified about the conspiracy, saying the plan called for him to funnel money to DiMasi, McDonough, and Vitale from the commissions he received for selling the Cognos software.
The trial, lasting about seven weeks, gave an ugly picture of behind-the-scenes dealings on Beacon Hill, with a who’s who list of witnesses that even included Governor Deval Patrick.