-By Joshua Resnek
North End native, former Speaker of the House Sal DiMasi is literally fighting for the next ten years of his life in Federal District Court where his trial began two weeks ago.
Looking at what has gone on so far, it appears as though Sal has his work cut out for himself.
He stands accused of taking $65,000 in return for getting a state contract for a company called Cognos.
To date, the most compelling testimony and evidence has come from his former legal associate Steven Topazio, who testified last week that he received $125,000 from Cognos without doing any work – something he said Sal, through others, had set up.
He also detailed a squabble with Sal over $25,000 that in the end was more telling than anything so far detailed in Federal Court about this case.
In 2006, Topazio told Sal about a $25,000 check he received from Cognos. He said DiMasi demanded the whole thing.
“All I know is we had an argument,” Topazio said.
Topazio testified that he eventually mailed Sal the $25,000 check to his Beacon Hill office but Sal returned it, demanding that Topazio break it up into four smaller checks of varying amounts.
“I asked him why he wanted me to change a check,” Topazio said. “He didn’t answer me. He said, ‘That’s the way I want it.’”
Topazio then ripped the check in two and saved it in his files. Prosecutors put the ripped check on display for the jurors.
Federal prosecutors also showed evidence pointing to Sal using personal credit cards to the tune of $50,000 a month at one point – and apparently spending as much as that with credit cards in a one year period.
For Sal, a favorite son in this neighborhood, such testimony is impossible to ignore.
There is also the power of the Federal government he is facing which does not bode well for him.
No one has more lawyers, more money, and more time than the Federal government to investigate, gather evidence and then to try a case.
Sal has been our guy in this neighborhood for a lifetime.
His friends here remain his friends and very quietly, everyone is hoping he beats the rap.
But beating this rap appears to be all about impossibility and futility than anything else.
Sal’s world is growing smaller every day.
I hate to say it, but that’s the way it is unless there is a dramatic turnaround in court.