Ex-Massachusetts speaker DiMasi lashes out at Bureau of Prisons
BOSTON — Former Massachusetts House speaker Salvatore DiMasi lashed out at the federal Bureau of Prisons during his first interview since being granted compassionate release in 2016 after serving five years of an eight-year sentence on federal corruption charges, including extortion.
DiMasi called the bureau ‘‘a rogue agency’’ during an interview Wednesday on WGBH. He said the agency doesn’t provide needed health care to those under its supervision.
‘‘Every other day someone in my unit would die and they did nothing about it,’’ DiMasi said, recalling seeing ‘‘people drop off just like flies.’’
The Democrat said he is in remission for throat and prostate cancer. He said he thought he was going to die in prison but has since received treatment at Massachusetts General Hospital and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
The bureau did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The 73-year-old Democrat was charged with using his clout as speaker to steer lucrative state contracts to a software company in exchange for $65,000 in payments funneled through DiMasi’s outside law firm. He was convicted in 2011.
While in prison, DiMasi was treated for tongue and prostate cancer.
In arguing for compassionate release, his lawyers and family members said that while his cancer was in remission, the illness had resulted in a narrowing of his esophagus that created a risk of choking and required he be constantly monitored while eating and drinking.
In the interview, DiMasi credited his wife Debbie and retired U.S. District Judge Nancy Gertner who helped press the case for his release.
DiMasi was more circumspect when asked about whether he thought he broke the law, saying he’d rather not talk about it.
‘‘I’ve spent probably the last 10 years trying to put all of that in the past,’’ DiMasi said. ‘‘The conviction is behind me, I made the appeals and now I have to deal with the reality of what happened to me.’’
The interview comes a day after DiMasi returned to the Statehouse where he was applauded by some House members as he was introduced by current Democratic House Speaker Robert DeLeo.
Asked about his legacy during the interview, DiMasi said he was proud of the legislative accomplishments undertaken during his tenure as speaker, including working to protect a court decision that made Massachusetts the first state to allow gay marriage.
‘‘You can taint the good-deed doer, but you can never taint the good deed, that will never go away,’’ DiMasi said. ‘‘What I accomplished along with my colleagues when I was in the Legislature as speaker — that is never going to be erased. There’s going to be a legacy of that no matter what.’’