Former House speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi has been told he will serve an eight-year prison sentence for political corruption in Lexington, Ky., nearly 1,000 miles from the Fort Devens prison where he had sought to be assigned, according to a person with direct knowledge of the US Bureau of Prisons’ decision.
A cell at Fort Devens in Ayer would have placed DiMasi, 66, closer to his wife, Debbie, who suffers from breast cancer. Fort Devens is also a designated medical treatment facility, important to DiMasi because he needs treatment for heart ailments.
US District Court Judge Mark L. Wolf had recommended that DiMasi be sent to Fort Devens when the fallen politician was sentenced in September.
But the Bureau of Prisons is not bound by the judge’s decision and has indicated it will send DiMasi to its medical center in Kentucky, according to the person with direct knowledge who was not authorized to speak publicly.
DiMasi’s lawyer, Tom Kiley, said yesterday that no final decision on an assignment has been made and that he is still in contact with the Bureau of Prisons.
“We are still unclear about where he will be going and continue to work to make it an appropriate placement,’’ Kiley said.
A spokesman for the Bureau of Prisons said no decision on DiMasi’s placement will be made public until he reports to prison, and that reasoning behind the decision will not be made public.
The spokesman, Ed Ross, added that several factors figure into the bureau’s decision on where to place an inmate, including a judge’s recommendation, the nature of the crime, the need for medical care, and the length of the sentence. He added that the bureau tries to locate prisoners within a 500-mile radius of their home.
“We take all that into consideration,’’ he said. “We do that for any defendant.’’
DiMasi’s codefendant, Richard McDonough, 66, who had also asked to be assigned locally to serve his seven-year sentence, is slated to be sent to the prison in Fort Dix, N.J.
Both men were convicted in June of using DiMasi’s power as speaker to help a Burlington software company called Cognos win two state contracts totaling $17.5 million in exchange for kickbacks to DiMasi and his associates. Joseph P. Lally Jr., a former Cognos salesman, pleaded guilty and testified for the prosecution. He was sentenced to 18 months in prison.
A fourth codefendant, Richard Vitale, was acquitted of all charges.
Alan Ellis, a private lawyer specializing in sentencing matters and author of the “Federal Prison Guidebook,’’ said in an interview yesterday that the Bureau of Prisons ultimately decides based on its own needs, such as whether a prison is overcrowded or provides appropriate security. He said the bureau could have decided that the Kentucky prison, for instance, is better suited for DiMasi’s medical needs or that Fort Devens is more appropriate for other ailments.
Ellis said the agency does try to remove certain convicts, for instance a politician or an organized crime figure, from their local community.
“They may have said, all things considered, we want to get this guy out of his sphere of influence,’’ he said.
In the meantime, Wolf decided DiMasi and McDonough will not have to report to prison until Nov. 30, instead of the previously scheduled Nov. 16. That was done to give the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit more time to hear a request that they stay free on bail pending a challenge of their convictions. The judge had previously rejected a request by defense lawyers for more time to file an appeal.
Wolf said in the decision yesterday that the postponement was appropriate to give the appeals court proper time to consider the appeal, because he had filed a court order Oct. 11 expanding on his decision a month earlier denying bail for both men pending an appeal of the verdict.
Kiley said he was grateful for the extension, noting DiMasi will enjoy Thanksgiving with family.Milton Valencia can be reached at email@example.com; Andrea Estes at firstname.lastname@example.org.