Judge OKs early prison release for ex-Massachusetts speaker

BOSTON (AP) " Former Massachusetts House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi will be released from prison early as he battles health problems.

Judge Mark Wolf on Thursday agreed with prison officials and federal prosecutors who argued that DiMasi's health issues make it difficult for him to function normally in prison.

DiMasi, 71, has served five years of an eight-year sentence on public corruption charges. He was diagnosed with, and treated for, throat and prostate cancer while in prison.

DiMasi's doctors say his cancer is in remission, but his treatments caused a narrowing of his esophagus that creates a risk of choking when he eats or drinks. He now requires a pureed diet and has lost about 70 pounds, his lawyers have said.

In his ruling, Wolf said he found "extraordinary and compelling reasons" to warrant releasing DiMasi early from prison.

Wolf cited the opinion of the medical director of the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, who found that DiMasi must be monitored while he eats.

"This opinion is central to the court's conclusion that DiMasi's release is justified," Wolf wrote.

Under Wolf's ruling granting compassionate release, the once-powerful Democrat will be released Tuesday from a federal prison in Butner, North Carolina, to his wife, Debbie DiMasi.

"I'm thrilled, overwhelmed, it's hard to believe," Debbie DiMasi told WBZ-AM.

"More than anything I really am extremely grateful and really can't wait to get him home and get him the health care he needs because he's really been struggling."

Current House Speaker Robert DeLeo, who succeeded DiMasi, said he's "elated and relieved" that DiMasi will be released in time to be with his family on Thanksgiving.

"Speaker DiMasi and his family have been, and will continue to remain, in my thoughts and prayers," DeLeo said.

David Guarino, who formerly served as a top aide to DiMasi, called Wolf's ruling "the right, just and fair decision."

DiMasi was first elected to the state Legislature in 1979 and worked his way up through the ranks of the House to become speaker following the resignation of Thomas Finneran in 2004. He was convicted of public corruption charges for steering state contracts to a software firm in exchange for $65,000 funneled through his private law firm.

DiMasi, who served as speaker from 2004 to 2009, was the third consecutive House speaker to leave office under an ethics cloud. He was convicted in 2011.

Compassionate release is intended for inmates with terminal illnesses as well as elderly inmates who have served a significant portion of their sentences.

In his ruling, Wolf said once DiMasi is released from prison and returns to Massachusetts, he is requiring a six-month period of home confinement. He said DiMasi will not be required to wear an electronic monitoring device and may leave his home for medical appointments and religious observances.

This story has been automatically published from the Associated Press wire which uses US spellings

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