He’s back, and he is not letting a stretch in a federal penitentiary get in the way of his political activities.
Larry Novak, whom federal prosecutors charged with trying to launder drug money for one of his law practice clients, is now listed on the state GOP’s website as the chairman of the Brockton Republican City Committee.
Novak, who resigned as the state party’s vice chairman when he was arrested in 2005, easily won his post in April when fellow committee members voted to fill the vacated chair. He was released from the prison camp at Fort Dix, N.J., in October 2015, having served six years of an 87-month sentence.
“I paid any debt I owed to society,’’ said Novak, 67.
In an interview, Novak, who also served as treasurer of the state party before his conviction, scoffed at his GOP critics, saying he is doing the party a favor by revitalizing a Republican city committee that had dwindled into a handful of members and was flat broke.
“It was an overwhelming vote,’’ Novak said, describing the uncontested election that marked his political comeback. “Call people in Brockton and they’ll tell you: They are glad I am back.”
Indeed, the local party had to clear away just one obstacle — a provision in the bylaws that prohibited a convicted felon from serving on the city committee. According to a person with direct knowledge of Novak’s move to take over the Brockton RCC, the former criminal attorney had threatened to sue, saying the prohibition was unconstitutional. None of the members had the stomach — nor the deep pockets — to fight him.
Novak, a self-described liberal Rockefeller Republican in an increasing conservative party, honed his political skills as a savvy operative in the 1980s and ’90s — and was also a bit of a gadfly. He is now citing — with some passion — criminal justice reform as his top issue. Using his experience, he has taken the committee membership from about 16 to more than 100 and has gotten some money into its empty bank account. He also said he has revitalized the long moribund GOP city ward committees in one of the most Democratic strongholds in the state.
But Novak’s move to get back into state GOP politics has some in the party cringing. And perhaps for good reason: His conviction was ugly.
According to the federal charges, Novak told his client, a drug dealer, he would launder $107,000 in cash he knew the criminal had made illegally from selling drugs. He said he would take $60,000 as a legal fee and offered to “cleanse” another $47,000 that the client had in a safe deposit box. In 2009, Novak pleaded guilty to two counts of money laundering.
Novak brushed off the party critics, claiming much of it was from bad feelings that have arisen in the internal party battles over delegates to the state GOP convention in April.
“Anyway, the party should open the doors to the formerly incarcerated,’’ he said, striking a blow for his new-found passion for criminal justice reform.Frank Phillips can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.