Saturday March 2, 2013

BOSTON -- A former Massachusetts treasurer and gubernatorial candidate agreed Friday to pay a $100,000 civil fine in exchange for prosecutors dropping a criminal corruption case against him.

Under the agreement, Tim Cahill will not have to face a second criminal trial but he acknowledged he violated the state’s civil ethics law.

Cahill was accused of scheming to use $1.5 million of state lottery money for an ad campaign designed to boost his unsuccessful 2010 gubernatorial campaign. His first trial ended in a mistrial in December when a jury was unable to reach a verdict.

Under the agreement reached between his attorneys and state Attorney General Martha Coakley, Cahill will be on pretrial probation for at least 18 months and up to four years. He must pay at least $25,000 in each of the next four years. His probation will end once the full amount is paid. In addition, Cahill cannot run for or serve in public office during his probation.

Superior Court Judge Christine Roach approved the agreement at a Friday hearing.

She called it "balanced and reasonable."

The case against Cahill was the first real test of a 2009 state ethics law. Before the law was passed, an allegation of conflict of interest would have been only a civil rather than a criminal violation.

During his trial, Cahill testified that he approved the ads because he wanted to defend the lottery after the Republican Governors Association tarnished its image through a series of ads criticizing Cahill and his management of the lottery. At the time, Cahill was running for governor as an independent and was airing his own campaign ads, which touted his good management of the lottery.

The written agreement, filed in court, says Cahill acknowledges his actions in connection with the timing of the state-funded lottery ads "gave rise to an appearance of impropriety."

By running those ads at the same time as his campaign ads, Cahill "knew or should have known, that he was attempting to use his official position to secure for himself an unwarranted privilege of substantial value not properly available to his fellow similarly-situated gubernatorial candidates," the agreement states.

Cahill, 54, of Quincy, spoke briefly after the court hearing and would not answer questions from reporters.

"I’m very happy to have this over with. I’m very satisfied with the outcome," he said.

Coakley called Friday’s resolution a "balanced and just outcome."

"In this case we believe Treasurer Cahill set out to misuse hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars," she said. "Treasurer Cahill has admitted to this ethical violation and has agreed to accept the responsibility."

Coakley also defended her decision to charge Cahill, saying it’s important to pursue public corruption cases, even when they are difficult. Faced with the same evidence, she would have brought the case again, she said.

Assistant Attorney General James O’Brien said that if prosecutors had re-tried the case, the outcome would have been uncertain, given that jurors were unable to reach a verdict during the first trial.

The agreement calls for prosecutors to drop the four charges against Cahill if he completes his probation and pays the full $100,000 fine: one count of procurement fraud, one count of using his official position to obtain an unwarranted privilege and two counts of conspiracy.