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Finneran is entitled to pension, judge rules

Former House Speaker Thomas Finneran lost his pension after a conviction stemming from testimony in a civil suit, but a judge ordered that it be restored.Wendy Maeda/Globe staff file

A Boston municipal court judge has ordered disgraced former House speaker Thomas M. Finneran’s state pension reinstated despite his 2007 federal conviction.

The government had stripped Finneran of his benefits because of that conviction. But according to the 14-page decision obtained by the Globe Wednesday, Associate Justice Serge Georges Jr. firmly rejected the State Board of Retirement’s legal basis for that 2012 decision and ordered the annual pension reinstated, retroactive to 2012.

Finneran, of Mattapan, did not respond to a phone message Wednesday evening.

Attorney General Maura Healey’s office said it would have no immediate comment on the decision, which was turned over to state officials only late Wednesday. The judge’s ruling came on Friday.

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Finneran in 2007 pleaded guilty to one count of obstruction of justice based on testimony he gave under oath in a federal civil suit in which he falsely denied he was involved in or made decisions about a 2001 House redistricting plan.

The retirement board ruled that he should be denied his pension benefits because he was acting in his public capacity as speaker of the House, a post he had held since 1996.

“The facts show that the link between Mr. Finneran’s position and the offense for which he was convicted is both direct and clear,” the board ruled at the time. “It is irrefutable that Mr. Finneran was acting in his official capacity when he took the actions that gave rise to this conviction.”

And, the board noted, “Mr. Finneran’s duties as a legislator and the mandate of his oath thus gave him a heightened obligation to be forthcoming with the court, in order to enable it to make a fair decision on the questions before it.”

But last week, the judge disagreed with the board’s finding, claiming that Finneran was not acting in a public capacity when he was testifying in the suit brought by civil rights litigators challenging the redistricting plan.

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“There is no substantial evidence to support the board’s conclusion that Finneran’s conviction bore a direct factual link to his position as a House member and/or speaker,” Georges wrote.

“Finneran was not charged with, nor pleaded guilty to, any wrongdoing in connection with the legislative process leading up to the House redistricting and reapportionment plan or whether the plan was unconstitutional,” the judge ruled.

Further, Georges said, “The record does not support the conclusion that Finneran either used his office to commit the crime, or that he was performing any official duties as member or speaker of the House when he testified at trial.”

Finneran, who was first elected to the House in November 1978, was elected speaker in 1996 after then-House Speaker Charles F. Flaherty resigned his position after pleading guilty to federal tax evasion charges.

With federal prosecutors pursuing his case, Finneran resigned as speaker in October 2004 to take a $418,000-per-year job as head of the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council, a nonprofit that supports the state’s biotechnology industry.

Federal prosecutors indicted him on perjury and obstruction of justice charges in 2005, and in 2007, he pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice, admitting that, in 2003 during the civil trial, he lied under oath about his involvement in the redistricting plan. A federal judge sentenced Finneran to 18 months of unsupervised probation and ordered him to pay a $25,000 fine.

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Finneran resigned his job at the council and was later disbarred as a lawyer. He then opened a lobbying practice on Beacon Hill and hosted a morning talk show on WRKO-AM, leaving after five years, in 2012.

Finneran’s successor as speaker, Salvatore DiMasi, a North End lawmaker, was also convicted in federal court of extortion and other charges, becoming the third consecutive speaker to be convicted and forced out of office. DiMasi is currently serving an eight-year sentence following his 2011 conviction.


Joshua Miller of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Phillips can be reached at frank.phillips@globe.com.