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’s offense is a felony connected to a redistricting plan which violated Federal law, carrying a maximum penalty that includes ten years’ imprisonment and a $250,000 fine,” she wrote. “The forfeiture of $433,400 in pension payments… therefore, does not qualify as an excessive fine in violation of the Eighth Amendment.”

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.

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Jack Sullivan

Senior Investigative Reporter, CommonWealth

About Jack Sullivan

Jack Sullivan is a veteran of the Boston newspaper scene for nearly three decades. Prior to joining CommonWealth, he was editorial page editor of The Patriot Ledger in Quincy, a part of the GateHouse Media chain. Prior to that he was news editor at another GateHouse paper, The Enterprise of Brockton, and also was city edition editor at the Ledger. Jack was an investigative and enterprise reporter and executive city editor at the Boston Herald and a reporter at The Boston Globe.

He has reported stories such as the federal investigation into the Teamsters, the workings of the Yawkey Trust and sale of the Red Sox, organized crime, the church sex abuse scandal and the September 11 terrorist attacks. He has covered the State House, state and local politics, K-16 education, courts, crime, and general assignment.

Jack received the New England Press Association award for investigative reporting for a series on unused properties owned by the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, and shared the association's award for business for his reporting on the sale of the Boston Red Sox. As the Ledger editorial page editor, he won second place in 2007 for editorial writing from the Inland Press Association, the nation's oldest national journalism association of nearly 900 newspapers as members.

At CommonWealth, Jack and editor Bruce Mohl won first place for In-Depth Reporting from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors for a look at special education funding in Massachusetts. The same organization also awarded first place to a unique collaboration between WFXT-TV (FOX25) and CommonWealth for a series of stories on the Boston Redevelopment Authority and city employees getting affordable housing units, written by Jack and Bruce.

A Boston native, Jack has lived in Massachusetts all his life. He was a major in English and history with a minor in political science at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. A father and grandfather, he lives in Plymouth with his wife, Susan.

About Jack Sullivan

Jack Sullivan is a veteran of the Boston newspaper scene for nearly three decades. Prior to joining CommonWealth, he was editorial page editor of The Patriot Ledger in Quincy, a part of the GateHouse Media chain. Prior to that he was news editor at another GateHouse paper, The Enterprise of Brockton, and also was city edition editor at the Ledger. Jack was an investigative and enterprise reporter and executive city editor at the Boston Herald and a reporter at The Boston Globe.

He has reported stories such as the federal investigation into the Teamsters, the workings of the Yawkey Trust and sale of the Red Sox, organized crime, the church sex abuse scandal and the September 11 terrorist attacks. He has covered the State House, state and local politics, K-16 education, courts, crime, and general assignment.

Jack received the New England Press Association award for investigative reporting for a series on unused properties owned by the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, and shared the association's award for business for his reporting on the sale of the Boston Red Sox. As the Ledger editorial page editor, he won second place in 2007 for editorial writing from the Inland Press Association, the nation's oldest national journalism association of nearly 900 newspapers as members.

At CommonWealth, Jack and editor Bruce Mohl won first place for In-Depth Reporting from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors for a look at special education funding in Massachusetts. The same organization also awarded first place to a unique collaboration between WFXT-TV (FOX25) and CommonWealth for a series of stories on the Boston Redevelopment Authority and city employees getting affordable housing units, written by Jack and Bruce.

A Boston native, Jack has lived in Massachusetts all his life. He was a major in English and history with a minor in political science at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. A father and grandfather, he lives in Plymouth with his wife, Susan.

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.

  • Aeroguy

    The law here is not debatable. The SJC’s decision was unanimous, 7-0.
    The capabilities of BMC Judge Serge Georges is open to question.