A former top aide to the ex-mayor of Lawrence was sentenced Thursday to 18 months in jail for pressuring a city vendor to donate a garbage truck to a city in his boss’s native Dominican Republic, prosecutors said.
Leonard Degnan, 51, is the first ally of William Lantigua to be convicted in a criminal case. Two other associates face pending criminal charges.
Degnan is being held at a jail in Middleton, said Essex County Sheriff Frank G. Cousins Jr. He must also serve two years of probation, perform 100 hours of community service, and pay a $10,000 fine, according to Essex District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett’s office, which prosecuted the case.
“The crux of this case lies in the defendant’s betrayal of the public trust,” prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memo. “He knowingly and willfully put the personal and political interests of himself and the administration of former Mayor William Lantigua over and above the best interests of the people of Lawrence.”
Degnan’s lawyer did not return a message seeking comment.
Marc Laplante, a city councilor in Lawrence, said he is glad Degnan’s case is over, but noted “there may be other shoes to drop in the future.”
“I don’t think the Lantigua chapter has been closed yet,” he said. “Those of us governing the city can’t focus on that. We need to focus on providing the best service and good, solid leadership in our city.”
A jury convicted Degnan on Monday of bribery, conspiracy, soliciting a bribe, and unlawful use of his official position in an event that came just a month after Lantigua was elected in November 2009 as the first Latino mayor of a Massachusetts city.
Prosecutors said Degnan requested a meeting with an executive manager from the city’s waste disposal contractor to pressure him to donate a garbage truck to Tenares, Lawrence’s “sister city” in the Dominican Republic. Allied Waste general manager Stanley Walczak testified that Degnan wanted him to know that Lawrence could void his company’s $6.4 million contract.
Allied Waste handed over the truck, adorned with decals proclaiming it a donation from Lantigua, and the company’s contract was not canceled.
A Globe reporter located the donated truck, the only garbage truck in the impoverished Dominican city, and the subject of considerable local pride.
"That's the garbage truck that was a gift from Lantigua," Jose Rafael Gonzalez, the man in charge of garbage collection in Tenares, told the Globe, pointing at the big truck on a muddy, rain-spattered hilltop on the outskirts of town. "It's in good condition. It's the father of the municipality."
Lantigua lost to Daniel Rivera in his bid for reelection in November. Lantigua was called to testify at Degnan’s trial, but he declined to answer questions, asserting his Fifth Amendment rights. Lantigua could not be reached for comment Thursday. Rivera declined to comment through an aide.
Other Lantigua allies facing criminal charges are Melix Bonilla, a former deputy police chief, and Justo Garcia, a former campaign photographer.
Bonilla has pleaded not guilty to charges that he swapped 13 city-owned vehicles for four vehicles from a friend of Lantigua. His lawyer did not return a call.
Garcia has pleaded not guilty to theft charges related to money missing from a city-owned parking garage. His lawyer, Sal Tabit, said he does not think the outcome of Degnan’s case has any bearing on Garcia.
“Every case is different. Every jury is different,” Tabit said.