Current and Former Political Officials Ask Judge for Leniency at Degnan Sentencing Hearing
By: Tom Duggan: April 3, 2014
Willie Lantigua’s former Chief of Staff Lenny Degnan will pay a fine of $10,000 and serve 18 months in the Middleton House of Corrections for his role in soliciting a bribe from Allied Waste, the company that contracts with the City of Lawrence for trash removal. Degnan will be prohibited from running for office again and must pay a witness fee as well as 100 hours of community service upon release.
Degnan pressured Allied Waste to send a trash truck to the Dominican Republic emblazoned with Mayor Lantigua’s name on the side threatening to rip up their 6.4 million trash contract with the city if they did not comply.
Judge Wilkins handed out his sentence Thursday after Degnan was convicted of: Solicitation of a bribe with corrupt intent, conspiracy, knowing solicitation of a bribe, and unlawful use of official position to gain an unwarranted privilege as Lantigua’s Chief of Staff.
Degnan submitted forty letters from members of the community vouching for his character and asking Judge Wilkins for leniency, including letters from current North Andover Town Moderator Mark DiSalvo, North Andover Selectman Richard Vaillancourt, and former North Andover School Committeeman Bill Kelley.
“I must confess I did not believe Leonard Degnan to be guilty of anything other than committing politics,” North Andover Town Manager Mark DiSalvo wrote to Judge Wilkins. “I ask that you measure this man fully and show mercy to Lenny. He is a bluster of a man who has a warm and giving heart.” (See full letter here)
North Andover Selectman Richard Vaillancourt also vouched for Degnan’s character and asked the judge for leniency.
“Everyone who knows Lenny, understands he is a strong presence when he enters a room. When he makes a decision he doesn’t waiver and sees it through to the end. We also know that Lenny has a big heart, and would be available for anyone who needed his help,” Vaillencourt wrote. (see full letter here)
Also writing letters vouching for Degnan’s character were; former Lawrence Mayor Mary Claire Kennedy (p. 2), her former Chief of Staff Jack McCarthy, (p.2) former Lawrence City Councilor and worker for the Secretary of State’s Office Joe Quartarone, Former Lawrence Police Chief Robert Hayden, Lawrence Building Inspector Peter Blanchette (who is the brother of Patrick Blanchette), community activist Brian DePina, Attorney James Landy, Attorney AJ Defusco, and Attorney Mark Ford as well as at least two dozen other friends and family members.
Prosecutors Say This was No Mistake
“The crux of this case lies in the defendant’s betrayal of the public trust,” said assistant District Attorney Michael Patten.
“He knowingly and willfully put the personal and political interests of himself and the administration of former Mayor William Lantigua over and above the best interests of the people of Lawrence —the people he was obligated and duty-bound to serve. To that end, he brazenly abused the power of his position as Chief of Staff and acted with “corrupt intent” in orchestrating the solicitation and receipt of a bribe for the exclusive benefit of the mayor.”
“As Chief of Staff, the defendant was the “right hand” of the mayor; a position which endowed him with great power and authority; a position, however, that also demanded great responsibility and accountability. He abused that power and failed to exercise that responsibility. Indeed, the evidence at trial showed that the defendant knowingly and intentionally participated in this bribery scheme not only while serving as Chief of Staff, but before even officially taking office —while still a “person selected to be” Chief of Staff.”
DA Reacts – More Trials Coming
Essex County District Attorney Jon Blodgett told the Valley Patriot that he was “pleased the jury appreciated the seriousness of this case. This case was not about a trash truck, this case was about corruption and criminal wrongdoing perpetrated on citizens of Lawrence.”
Blodgett praised the work of the Lawrence Police Department for their assistance in this investigation. “It’s been a long process and a lot of people working together, especially the Lawrence Police the State Police and the FBI.”
Kerry Maynihan, Director of Communications for the District Attorney would not answer questions about additional charges against Degnan for other allegations of criminal wrongdoing or charges against Lantigua, former DPW Direcotr Frank McCann or anyone else involved in the bribery scheme.
“I think it would be inappropriate for us to comment on that at this time. We have a few more cases in front of us we still have to prosecute, I wouldn’t want to discuss any other possibilities at this time.”
Prosecutors were looking for three to four years in state prison with a $50,000 fine on count one, five years probation and community service after release on count 2 and 3, and three to four years in prison on count five.
“The timing suggests that [Degnan] placed a greater value on serving his, as well as, the mayor’s outlying political interests, rather than focusing on the primary needs of the citizens of Lawrence. Furthermore, the tenor of the defendant’s initial meeting with Stanley Walczak, and the condescending manner in which the defendant chose to address Mr. Walzcak, who simply represented a company that had an ongoing and positive business relationship with the city, exemplifies the magnitude of the “corrupt intent” with which the defendant acted, and the jury recognized. In particular, the defendant boisterously threatened to “rip-up” or “void” Allied Waste’s recently signed $6.4 million dollar contract with the city.”
“Mr. Walczak testified that [Degnan] made it abundantly clear to him that he was chief of staff and that he (the defendant) and the mayor were in charge”
“On the heels of this pointed diatribe, the defendant then requested that Mr. Walczak, on behalf of Allied Waste, “donate” not one, but two trash trucks, not to the City of Lawrence, but to a town in the Dominican Republic. Moreover, the defendant made the request under the guise of donating to a poor village, when, in fact, the ulterior and true motive was to reward the mayor’s outlying political base, as evidenced at trial by the signage pertaining to Mayor Lantigua on the side of the truck. This, in itself, was an abuse of power. But, the defendant did not stop there.”
“He took his participation in these crimes a step further by coordinating and facilitating the transportation of the trash truck to the Dominican Republic.”
Prosecutors say that Degnan “chose to stay on board and knowingly, willfully, and voluntarily took an active role in these blatant crimes and dereliction of duty. By doing so, he betrayed the public trust.When the mayor’s Chief of Staff breaches the trust that the public has entrusted in him, the door to corruption has opened, and the breakdown of local government will soon follow -the impact of which can be endless and the consequences to the citizenry often irreversible. This Court cannot stand idly by and countenance this conduct.”
Degnan was taken away in shackles to his jail cell and processed after sentencing.