Former Massachusetts Senator’s Corruption Trial Could Run Six Weeks

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By Colin Young

BOSTON — A criminal trial that could lay out the details of a former senator’s alleged corrupt use of his public office could extend for four to six weeks.

Federal prosecutors estimated the trial’s length late last week, saying they’ve compiled more than 400,000 pages of possible evidence against Brian Joyce.

A report from Magistrate Judge David Hennessy after a hearing on Friday also revealed there “have been no plea discussions” between the federal government and Joyce, a Milton Democrat who has pleaded not guilty to a range of charges.

An election year trial for Joyce would add another dimension to a chaotic session for the state Senate, where Sen. Stanley Rosenberg of Amherst stepped down from the presidency in December amid an Ethics Committee investigation and Sen. Michael Brady of Brockton is currently facing drunken driving charges.

Several senators who were in office in January 2017 have also resigned in recent months to take new jobs, adding a turnover element to the turmoil.

Government attorneys and those representing Joyce are still working towards setting a date to begin Joyce’s trial on 113 counts including racketeering, extortion, mail fraud, wire fraud, money laundering and tax evasion.

Hennessy set the next hearing in Joyce’s case for June 1.

During a hearing in Worcester on Friday, attorneys for Joyce said the defense has not yet begun reviewing the hundreds of thousands of pages produced by the government’s automatic discovery process because their time has been spent responding to a motion to disqualify one of Joyce’s attorneys from the case.

“Given the Government’s pending motion to disqualify counsel and that Defendant’s review of discovery has not begun, I will defer setting a tentative trial date before Judge Gorton,” Hennessy wrote in his report after Friday’s conference.

The defense and prosecution were instructed by Hennessy on Friday to be prepared to discuss proposed dates for a trial at the June 1 hearing.

Prosecutors said Joyce, who was first elected to the Senate in 1998 and held high-ranking leadership positions before he chose not to seek re-election in 2016, secretly profited from his elected position as a senator, accepting bribes and kickbacks in exchange for his “official action” in the Senate and putting pressure on state and local officials.

Authorities say Joyce’s alleged activities date from 2010 to the present and that as much as $1 million was involved in Joyce’s various schemes. Joyce did not seek re-election in 2016.

A law firm hired by the Senate Ethics Committee in December is looking into whether Rosenberg violated any Senate rules in connection with allegations that his husband, Bryon Hefner, harassed and assaulted men with business pending on Beacon Hill and meddled in Senate affairs.

A statewide grand jury on Thursday handed down felony charges against Hefner in connection with five alleged sexual assaults, criminal lewdness and the distribution of nude photos without consent. His arraignment is April 24 in Suffolk Superior Court.

Gov. Charlie Baker is withholding judgment for now on whether Rosenberg should step down, calling information outlined in Hefner’s indictment “distressing” and expressing appreciation for alleged abuse and harassment victims who came forward to discuss Bryon Hefner.

“With respect to Senator Rosenberg I believe that anything associated with him directly needs to be dealt with either through the investigation that’s being done by the Senate itself, which has been kind of lost in this some of this discussion, and by the work that’s being done by the DA and by the attorney general,” Baker said in a scrum with reporters Friday in South Boston. “If that turns up information that implies or suggests that he was aware of and knew about this stuff then at that point, yeah, I think he should resign.”

Senate President Harriette Chandler plans to wait for Brady’s criminal case to unfold before deciding if the Senate needs to discipline Brady.

“It’s in the court system now, and we will see what happens there and then we will make a decision about if the Senate will take action,” Chandler said.

[Michael P. Norton contributed reporting.]