Heard: December 1, 2016
found and returned in the Superior Court Department on
September 11, 2012.
cases were tried before Douglas H. Wilkins, J.
A.F. Lewis for the defendant. Philip A. Mallard, Assistant
District Attorney, for the Commonwealth.
Present: Cypher, Maldonado, & Blake, JJ.
the election of William Lantigua as mayor of Lawrence (city)
in 2009, the defendant, Leonard Degnan, served as his chief
of staff. During the defendant's tenure in that position,
he secured the donation of a trash truck from the city's
waste services provider to a city in the Dominican Republic.
The donation request took place during a meeting in which the
defendant told the provider that the mayor's office
"had the ability to rip up" the provider's
contract with the city. Following the donation, the city took
no action to void or modify the contract.
2012, a grand jury returned several indictments charging the
defendant with bribery and other crimes related to the trash
truck donation. A 2014 jury trial resulted in convictions of
soliciting a bribe, soliciting a gratuity, conspiracy to
solicit a bribe, and unlawful use of an official position
with fraudulent intent. On appeal, the defendant claims that
the Commonwealth presented insufficient evidence to support
the convictions, and that errors in the prosecutor's
closing argument created a substantial risk of a miscarriage
of justice. With the exception of the conviction of
soliciting a gratuity under G. L. c. 268A, § 3(b), which
we vacate as duplicative of the bribery conviction, we affirm
the defendant's convictions.
light most favorable to the Commonwealth,
Commonwealth v. Latimore, 378
Mass. 671, 676-677 (1979), the jury could have found the
City's waste removal contract.
Waste (Allied) is a waste hauling company that holds multiple
municipal contracts, private contracts, and commercial
accounts. In 2009, Stanley Walczak was a general manager at
Allied responsible for the negotiation of municipal contracts
with the city, among other duties. In September, 2009, prior
to Lantigua's election, Walczak and the city renegotiated
a new $6.4 million, three-year contract to commence on
October 1, 2009, with two additional option years. The new
contract was significantly different from the prior, as it
converted the city to an automated collection system with
limited barrels per household. To fulfil the contract, Allied
was required to purchase new barrels and new side-loading
trucks at a cost of $2 million to $3 million. Despite the
significant financial investment required, the parties
expected that the reduced manpower needed, as well as the
limited trash collection per household, would result in
savings over the long term. As an additional cost-saving
measure, the new contract also eliminated bulk item pickup.
During the early implementation of the new contract, some of
the city's residents protested the reduced services.
Connection to the Dominican Republic.
November, 2009, the city's voters elected Lantigua, who
was the first mayor originally from the Dominican Republic.
More than one- third of the city's eligible voters are
from the Dominican Republic, with a significant number of
those from the Dominican city of Tenares. Shortly after the
election, Lantigua and the defendant met with the mayor of
Tenares while they were vacationing in the Dominican
Solicitation of the donation.
his return from the Dominican Republic, the defendant
commenced work in the new administration. He directed the
everyday operations of the city, acted as its "finance
director, " and oversaw the city's contracts,
including its contract with Allied, all in close connection
with the mayor. Vendors, including Walczak, knew that the
"mayor's office ha[d] a lot of clout" and
"a lot of say" in the renewal and awarding of
contracts and, for that reason, they knew that it was in
their interest to be responsive to the mayor's office.
December, 2009, Frank McCann, the head of the city's
department of public works, telephoned Walczak to set up a
meeting with Walczak and the defendant. At that point,
Walczak had known McCann for about eleven years and had
worked with him as the city's contact person on its trash
contracts. During the call, McCann informed Walczak that, at
the meeting, the defendant was going to ask that Allied
donate one or two trash trucks.
meeting took place later that month at the defendant's
insurance office. According to Walczak, it proceeded as
follows. From behind his desk, with McCann and Walczak seated
in front of him, the defendant immediately launched into a
hostile attack about the new trash contract. He stated that
both he and the mayor were not happy with the contract, and
that he "could not believe" that the previous
administration had signed such a "way overpriced"
contract. Continuing in a confrontational tone, the defendant
emphasized that the cost of the contract had been
significantly increased from the previous one, but provided
fewer services, and that he "didn't believe it would
work in the city of Lawrence." The defendant told
Walczak that "he was the right hand of the mayor"
and "could find a lot of other companies to come in to
do it a lot cheaper." Finally, the defendant said that
he and the mayor "had the ability to rip up the
contract, not honor it."
fifteen minutes into the meeting, while Walczak was
attempting to explain how the contract had come into
existence, the defendant cut him off and told him that the
defendant and the mayor were "going to give [Allied] a
chance . . . even though [the city] could terminate the
contract, they were going to give [Allied] the opportunity to
work with [them]." The tenor of the meeting then
immediately changed. The defendant told Walczak that
"[he] and the mayor would be very happy" and
"it would go a long way if ...