Finneran loses pension appeal
SJC says lies tied to role as speaker
THE STATE’S HIGHEST COURT has rejected an appeal by former House speaker Thomas Finneran to reinstate his pension, saying the one-time legislative leader’s lies during testimony in a federal lawsuit were related to his position and taking his retirement money away did not constitute an “excessive fine.”
The Supreme Judicial Court overturned a 2015 ruling by a Boston Municipal Court judge who declared that while Finneran lied under oath about his involvement in a suit on redistricting, it was not connected to his official capacity as a legislator or speaker. The unanimous SJC opinion issued Wednesday morning, written by Justice Barbara Lenk, rejected that argument.
“Finneran’s crime directly concerns actions that he had carried out when he served as Speaker, in his role as Speaker,” Lenk wrote in a harsh rebuke of municipal court Judge Serge Georges, who was not named in the opinion. “He worked on the redistricting plan in his capacity as Speaker and later testified falsely about it. On its face, this connection is enough to create a ‘direct link between the criminal offense and [Finneran’s] . . . position.’”
The 67-year-old Finneran, the second of three consecutive speakers to be indicted for crimes while in office, had also argued that since he was already fined $25,000 and sentenced to probation, taking his pension, which he claimed was valued at $433,000, was excessive punishment in violation of the Constitution’s Eighth Amendment. But the SJC said because he had not previously raised the issue, he was precluded from using that argument on appeal. But, Lenk wrote, even if the court considered his argument, they’d reach the conclusion he actually got off easy given what he could have received for the crimes with which he was charged in federal court.
Finneran, a Mattapan Democrat who rose to rule the House with an iron fist, was indicted by a grand jury in 2005 on one count of perjury and one count of obstruction of justice. Prosecutors said he lied during testimony in a suit by minority voters over a 2001 redistricting plan that added white suburban voters to his Boston district while “superpacking” a minority-majority district next door.Finneran said his involvement was minimal and he didn’t see the plan until it was unveiled before the full House. But that testimony was contradicted by others and it led to the indictment, and a plea deal in 2007 to obstruction of justice.
Finneran left the House shortly before his indictment to assume leadership of the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council. He left the council after his plea and became a talk show host at WRKO. He was also disbarred as a lawyer and now works as a lobbyist on Beacon Hill. He did not immediately return a call for comment.