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Former Massachusetts public official facing criminal charges

Any person in Massachusetts that is indicted for a crime faces serious circumstances that may put financial and personal strain on oneself. Learning that your life may change forever due to an indictment for criminal charges is, in the very least, stressful. On April 2, the former Massachusetts treasurer was indicted and formally accused of utilizing $1.5 million from the state lottery's advertising budget to run advertisements benefiting his own political campaign for governor.

The man is accused of using the lottery money to advertise his 2010 governor's bid, which was ultimately unsuccessful. The Massachusetts attorney general said the advertisements and timing were both unwarranted and against the law. The attorney general also said the treasurer used three-quarters of the state lottery's advertising budget for radio and television advertisements for his own political campaign, which aired during the last two months of the gubernatorial race.

The advertisements stressed the treasurer's strong management and success in returning money to cities and towns. The attorney general requested and obtained a halt to the advertisements when they came to light, an action that purportedly saved the lottery department $1 million.

The former treasurer is the first person to be charged under the newly revised 2009 Massachusetts ethics laws. He was indicted by a Suffolk County grand jury for allegedly violating ethic laws, procurement fraud, and two counts of conspiracy. Also indicted were the treasurer's former campaign manager and the chief of staff for the lottery.

Regardless of what the Massachusetts attorney general claims, any individual, including a public official, is entitled to their constitutional rights of innocence until proven guilty, a competent defense, and a trial by jury. These are grave responsibilities the state government owes every single person facing criminal charges. Since the 2009 Massachusetts ethic laws were recently changed, there is likely to be little case law to follow as this case makes its way through the criminal court system. One crucial issue may be whether or not the acts complained of constitute criminal conduct or rather were a perhaps ill-advised attempt to promote the lottery commission by promoting the politician responsible for its budget.

Source: Bloomberg Businessweek, "Ex-Massachusetts Treasurer Charged in Ethics-Crime Case," Don Jeffrey, April 2, 2012

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