Former South Boston state representative Brian P. Wallace today admitted to violating campaign finance laws, but said the case was an unjust prosecution propelled by Attorney General Martha Coakley’s effort to enhance her own political career.
“Oh, God, this has been a nightmare,’’ Wallace, 62, said after his appearance in Suffolk Superior Court. “It’s been rough. I don’t think we should be here ... I am the example here today ... Martha Coakley wants to get some elected officials. I am a small-timer.’’
In court, Wallace told Judge Frances McIntyre that he did not properly document $51,000 in expenditures he made for his 2008 re-election campaign, ending his prosecution on two misdemeanor counts of violating state campaign finance laws. He admitted that he also could not properly document $6,345 in contributions.
But, despite objections from an assistant attorney general, McIntyre refused to find Wallace guilty. Instead, she placed him on pre-trial probation for three to five years, ordered him to pay a $1,000 fine and ordered him to pay the Office of Campaign and Political Finance $35,329.11 in restitution.
Assistant Attorney General Jason Cofield said in court that the $35,329.11 is the amount of campaign expenses for which the purpose was “ambiguous on their face,” and it could not be determined whether they were legal.
McIntyre said she would keep Wallace’s guilty plea in abeyance if he makes the payments and avoids any future brushes with the law. She will dismiss the charges if he complies with those requirements.
From the bench, the judge said the public has a right to expect ethical conduct by its elected officials, but noted that similar violations were resolved by civil, not criminal charges.
“The campaign finance laws are set up in order so the public can understand and trust and know” who is donating to their elected officials and how that money is spent, the judge said.
She said her resolution of the charges meets Coakley’s objectives of sending a signal to public officials and political candidates that they must properly maintain records -- or face criminal charges.
Wallace’s campaign treasurer, Timothy Duross, was indicted on similar charges. Duross also admitted he failed to maintain the proper records, and also had his case continued without a finding for three years. He was ordered to pay a $2,000 fine.
Wallace’s plea came after his attorney, William A. McDermott Jr., and Coakley’s prosecutors held numerous conversations with McIntyre at sidebar, preventing the public from learning what was discussed by the parties.
Outside the courtroom, Wallace insisted he was an innocent man who never took advantage of his political office to secretly enrich himself. He recalled that when he first started his political career while working for former Mayor Raymond L. Flynn, someone offered him $15,000 in cash in order to get a 15-minute meeting with Flynn.
Wallace said he turned down the offer.
“In 40 years -- a lot of offers,’’ Wallace said. “Never taken.’’
Wallace blamed Coakley for the end of his political career. He did not seek reelection during the 2010 campaign and acknowledged at that time that he was under investigation for campaign finance violations.
“They ruined my career, which I think was a pretty good one,’’ he said.
He said he had to sell his home in South Boston and now lives in Westwood. Though he at one time helped raise money for the South Boston St. Patrick’s Day Parade, he said it was too painful to attend this year.
Wallace said he has been unemployed since formally ending his legislative career in January 2010. His future has brightened recently, however, because he recently sold the paperback rights to a book he wrote several years ago. The book is being optioned for a movie.
The title? “Final Confession.’’