Two months after he tearfully pleaded for a federal judge’s mercy, former Massachusetts House speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi took a defiant stance yesterday, a day before he was to surrender at a federal prison for political corruption.
“I maintain my innocence,’’ said DiMasi, who is set to begin an eight-year sentence in Lexington, Ky., today. “I have never, nor would I ever violate the public’s trust.’’
His defiance was a swift departure from DiMasi’s Sept. 8 appearance before US District Court Chief Judge Mark L. Wolf, during which DiMasi tearfully called himself a “broken man’’ who deserved the court’s compassion in setting his jail sentence.
Yesterday, DiMasi said he wanted to profess his innocence, “as I have from the beginning,’’ and he expressed pride in his more than 30 years of work in the Legislature.
“I still believe in the American justice system, and my hope, faith and attention are now focused on the Appeals Court,’’ DiMasi said. “I have abiding faith in that system and place my fate in its hands.’’
DiMasi, 66, once one of the state’s most powerful elected officials, was convicted by a federal jury in June of multiple counts of honest services fraud and conspiracy to defraud taxpayers.
Jurors found that he was at the center of a scandal to sell his office by helping a Burlington software company, Cognos, win two state contracts totaling $17.5 million in exchange for hundreds of thousands of dollars in kickbacks to him and his associates.
He is to report to the prison in Kentucky by noon today to begin a sentence that was seen by legal analysts as a strong punishment meant to send a message against political corruption.
But DiMasi maintained his innocence and said he was proud of his work in the Legislature, where he became the state’s first Italian-American speaker.
“I have a proud record of accomplishments, including historic health care reform, green jobs, important court reforms, the protection of same sex marriage, and, while I served, the refusal to legalize casino gambling,’’ DiMasi said. “The irony that the casino culture prevailed after so many years just one week before I traveled to Kentucky is certainly not lost on me.
“I remain outraged that my reputation, my integrity, and my good name have been sullied by this process,’’ he said. “I will do everything in my power to earn back those things in the coming years.’’
Wolf rejected a request by DiMasi to let him remain free pending the appeal, and then the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit agreed.
Then Wolf rejected a request by DiMasi to postpone his prison reporting date while he challenges his assignment to the facility in Kentucky.
The US Bureau of Prisons apparently assigned DiMasi to the Kentucky facility because it has a medical center that could address his medical ailments, among them a heart condition. DiMasi suffered a heart attack more than two decades ago and is still undergoing heart treatment.
DiMasi had asked to be sent to the camp at Fort Devens, which has a medical facility, so that he could be closer to his family. With Wolf’s refusal to postpone the prison reporting date, DiMasi will have to wait a year before filing a request for a transfer.
Yesterday, Wolf postponed the prison reporting date for Joseph P. Lally Jr., the defendant who became a key prosecution witness in the case against DiMasi.
Wolf said it would send the wrong message if Lally served his time under tougher conditions than DiMasi and another codefendant, Richard McDonough, who was also convicted and sentenced to seven years in prison.
Wolf said the extension would give the Bureau of Prisons more time to consider his recommendation that Lally serve in a minimum-security facility rather than the maximum-security facility where Lally has been assigned.
“Lally’s reduced sentence was expressly intended to encourage other defendants to plead guilty and substantially assist the government in obtaining the convictions of even more culpable criminals,’’ Wolf wrote in the order, yesterday morning. “Requiring Lally to serve his sentence at a maximum-security facility would undermine the court’s effort to send that message.’’
Wolf granted Lally’s request to report to prison on Dec. 12, rather than Dec. 5, as currently scheduled.
Lally was assigned Monday to serve his 18-month sentence as part of the work crew at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, where he would have to clean and cook for inmates, the Globe reported.