Tuesday, June 7, 2005
Former Speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives Thomas Finneran was charged with perjury and obstruction of justice related to his testimony in a federal voting rights case in which racial gerrymandering was alleged by the plaintiffs. According to the press release issued by the U.S. Attorney's Office (here):
The Indictment alleges that FINNERAN committed perjury and obstruction of justice during a sworn deposition on March 28, 2003, and during his sworn trial testimony on November 14, 2003. FINNERAN was a witness in a federal Voting Rights Act case brought by the Black Political Task Force and other minority plaintiffs from the City of Boston against the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. That lawsuit alleged that the 2001 state statute which drew new legislative district boundaries discriminated against black and minority voters in Boston and deprived them of an equal opportunity to vote. In particular, the lawsuit alleged that FINNERAN and other legislators engaged in "racial gerrymandering" to protect incumbent legislators. FINNERAN's own legislative district, the 12th Suffolk District, was at the heart of the lawsuit, and he was questioned at the deposition and at trial about his personal involvement in the development of the redistricting legislation.
The investigation was triggered by the findings of a three-judge panel reviewing a challenge to the redistricting plan under the Voting Rights Act. In Black Political Task Force v. Galvin, 300 F.Supp.2d 294 (D.Mass. 2004) (here), the panel opinion stated in a footnote: "Although Speaker Finneran denied any involvement in the redistricting process, the circumstantial evidence strongly suggests the opposite conclusion. For one thing, he handpicked the members of the Committee and placed Petrolati at the helm. For another thing, he ensured that the Committee hired his boyhood friend and long-time political collaborator, Lawrence DiCara, as its principal functionary. Last--but far from least--Finneran's in-house counsel, John Stefanini, had the Maptitude software installed on his computer in the Speaker's office suite and was one of only four legislative staffers who received training in how to use the software." The perjury charges against Finneran involve testimony at trial and in depositions, and the obstruction charges is based on providing "misleading and false statements on a range of issues from his knowledge of a redistricting plan before it was publicly released, to his knowledge of the racial and ethnic makeup of neighborhoods he gained and lost in the redistricting process." (ph)