An accountant accused of using his friendship with the Massachusetts House speaker to push ticket-scalping legislation and concealing his work as a lobbyist pleaded not guilty Monday, as his lawyer succeeded in blocking the release of more details of the case.
Richard Vitale, of Boston, was arraigned on two counts of failing to register as a lobbyist, one count of making an illegal agreement for compensation contingent on the passage of legislation and four counts of making campaign contributions over the $200-per-year limit for lobbyists.
WN Advisors LLC, an entity owned by Vitale, was charged with two counts of failing to register and one count of making an illegal agreement for compensation.
Vitale, 63, is accused of using his connections to House of Representatives Speaker Salvatore DiMasi, for whom he once served as campaign treasurer and gave a $250,000 third mortgage, to win House approval of the legislation. It subsequently stalled in the Senate.
His lawyer, Martin Weinberg, has argued Vitale did not have to register as a lobbyist — and thus made legal donations — because he did not exceed a minimum mandatory threshold of 50 hours' work on behalf of the ticket brokers.
Weinberg persuaded the court Monday to block public release of an 18-page summary of the case from prosecutors, which he said would prejudice the jury pool. He also said it violated the secrecy of grand jury deliberations and served no practical purpose since there was no bail issue and Vitale said he planned to plead not guilty.
"Someday there will be a trial and Mr. Vitale will need an unbiased jury," Weinberg said.
The case focuses on Vitale's alleged efforts on behalf of the Massachusetts Association of Ticket Brokers. Prosecutors said WN Advisors was paid a total of $60,000 by the group to promote legislation regulating the resale of tickets to sporting and entertainment events.
Prosecutors said Vitale communicated and met with DiMasi and Speaker Pro Tempore Thomas Petrolati on multiple occasions to promote the bill, delivered printed copies of e-mails from a group representative to Petrolati and forwarded e-mails from the representative to a personal e-mail address of DiMasi.
On one occasion, they said, Vitale delivered an e-mail which requested specific changes to the bill, which the House made before passing it.
Investigators also allege Vitale signed an agreement with the ticket broker's association for an additional $20,000 if the bill passed.
State law prohibits anyone from making an agreement for compensation contingent on the passage or defeat of legislation.
Vitale and WN Advisors face up to $32,000 in fines and two years in prison.
DiMasi declined to comment on the case.
Source: AP News