Finneran: Map-drawing charge 'was false, right from the start'

By 
Tom Mulvoy
Aug. 1, 2007

For Tom Finneran, self-styled "most unpopular man" in state politics from 1999 to 2004, his days in federal court earlier this year, where he pleaded guilty to one count of obstruction of justice for making misleading and false statements under oath in a federal case involving his role in the drawing of electoral maps for the city of Boston, still rankle to his very core.

In an interview in this week's Boston Irish Reporter, the former speaker of the Massachusetts House, now 57 and a morning talk-show host on WRKO 680 in Boston, acknowledged that "anything I say will sound like I'm whining and looking for sympathy. But I will say this: The charge was wrong; it was false right from the start. I might have had eight, to ten, to twelve meetings regarding redistricting over a period of a year and a half, all of which I acknowledged in court. These were meetings that I did not initiate and were among 2,000 to 3,000 meetings on other issues. The accusation that I was involved with the racial manipulation of an electoral map - that I was sitting up on Beacon Hill as the master map drawer - is absolutely untrue. I was indifferent to it."

So why did he, who has lived and continues to live in a Mattapan neighborhood dominated by African Americans, plead guilty to an obstruction of justice charge with racial overtones? Simple logic, he told the Irish Reporter's Greg O'Brien. "I didn't want to risk my liberty. I could not waive my right to a jury trial without the prosecution's assent under federal court rules. I was the most unpopular guy in Massachusetts politics from 1999 to 2004 in every poll taken, and was not about to put 12 people in a box under those circumstances to decide my life and my freedom."

As to the immediate future, Finneran told O'Brien he plans to focus his energies on his radio career, with thoughts of lobbying or teaching law school courses in years to come, as he did previously at Suffolk Law School. Will he ever consider running again for public office? "My wife would put her foot down," he said, but then added, "I would never say never. I wouldn't close the door on it. Friends have said that I would make a great mayor of Boston."