, Salem, MA

April 1, 2014

Former Lantigua aide found guilty

By Jill Harmacinski
Staff writer

---- — LAWRENCE — A jury yesterday convicted Leonard Degnan of four counts of bribery and conspiracy in a crashing criminal blow to the former administration of Lawrence Mayor William Lantigua.

Degnan, Lantigua’s former chief of staff and right-hand man, was cleared of one count of extortion, which carried a maximum penalty of 15 years in state prison — the heftiest of the charges.

The North Andover resident was convicted for pressuring a city contractor, Allied Waste, to donate a trash truck to the city of Tenares in the Dominican Republic, Lantigua’s native country. An Allied Waste employee testified Degnan “threatened” and “squeezed” him for trash truck donations after Lantigua was elected but before he formally was sworn in to office in January 2010.

Prosecutors stressed that the case was about more than a trash truck; it was a blatant violation of the public trust.

Called as a witness in Degnan’s defense during the 31/2-day trial, Lantigua asserted his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and never took the stand. Former public works director Frank McCann also took the Fifth.

Since taking office in 2010, Lantigua and his administration have been dogged by allegations involving the trash truck, other vehicle donations to the Dominican Republic, bid-rigging, suspicious out-of-country travel and more. To date, Lantigua has not faced criminal charges.

A 12-person jury in Lawrence Superior Court deliberated for more than nine hours before convicting Degnan, a married father of three, of solicitation of a bribe with corrupt intent, conspiracy, knowing solicitation of the bribe and unlawful use of an official position. On the final charge, jurors specified Degnan defrauded “the citizens of Lawrence,” according to the verdict slip read aloud in court yesterday.

Degnan and family members in the courtroom were silent as the verdicts were read just after 4 p.m. yesterday. Judge Douglas Wilkins ordered Degnan held at Middleton Jail pending his sentencing Thursday morning at 9.

Court officers then handcuffed Degnan, led him from the courtroom and eventually to an Essex County Sheriff’s Department transport van waiting outside the courthouse next to Lawrence City Hall.

Ted Cranney, Degnan’s lead defense attorney, declined comment.

Essex County District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett said he was “pleased that the jury appreciated the seriousness of this case,” in a statement issued immediately after the verdicts were handed down.

“This case was not about a trash truck. This case was about corruption and political wrongdoing perpetrated on the citizens of Lawrence,” Blodgett said.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant District Attorneys Michael Patten and Michael Sheehan.

On the bribery solicitation conviction, Degnan faces up to 10 years in state prison or 21/2 years in Middleton Jail or a fine of up to $100,000. On the remaining three convictions, the maximum sentences are 5 years in state prison or 21/2 years in Middleton Jail and various fines.