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Pre-sentencing hearing for ex-Mass. state senator

Associated Press | 1/5/2011, 4:17 a.m.

    Pre-sentencing hearing for ex-Mass. state senator

    A federal judge has set a new date to sentence a former Massachusetts state senator who was caught on video stuffing bribe money into her bra.

    Dianne Wilkerson’s sentencing hearing was originally scheduled for last Wednesday. But U.S. District Court Judge Douglas Woodlock postponed it so he could take testimony from a businessman who claims Wilkerson solicited money from him. The sentencing is now set for Jan. 6.

    Boston businessman Azid Mohammed testified that Wilkerson pressured him to help her with financial problems. He said he paid her $7,700 between 2002 and 2006 because he thought it would help move his proposed development project along.

    Prosecutors have said the payments to Mohammed are part of a pattern of conduct they want Woodlock to take into consideration when sentencing Wilkerson.

    When cross-examined by Wilkerson’s lawyer, Mohammed acknowledged that she never promised him help with his project in exchange for the money.

    Wilkerson was not charged over those alleged payments.

    The Boston Democrat pleaded guilty in June to eight counts of attempted extortion after she was captured on video stuffing bribe money into her bra. She was accused of taking $23,500 in bribes to help get a liquor license for a nightclub and an undercover agent posing as a businessman.

    Gov. names Russell to chair Mass. judicial panel

    Gov. Deval Patrick has named a Boston attorney to head the panel that screens applications for judgeships in Massachusetts.

    E. Macey Russell has been a member of the Judicial Nominating Commission since 2007 and became its vice chair earlier this year. He’ll take over as chair on Jan. 1, succeeding Lisa Goodheart, who has headed the panel for the past three and a half years.

    Russell is a partner at Choate, Hall and Stewart and co-chairs the law firm’s diversity committee.

    During Goodheart’s tenure as head of the commission, it has assisted Patrick in the naming of 83 judges, including four nominations to the Supreme Judicial Court.

    The governor has also appointed 10 clerk-magistrates.

    All judicial nominations must be approved by the Governor’s Council.

    Mass. court dismisses lawsuits from hospitals

    A Superior Court judge has dismissed lawsuits filed by seven Massachusetts hospitals alleging the state’s 2006 health care law shortchanged them.

    The first lawsuit by Boston Medical Center, claimed the state illegally cut payments to the hospital for treating low-income patients.

    A second lawsuit by six other hospitals claimed the state violated a law requiring health care providers be adequately reimbursed for caring for Medicaid and Medicare patients.

    Judge Judith Fabricant ruled that neither state nor federal law authorizes judicial review of rates set by the health and human services secretary.

    The hospitals include the Berkshire Medical Center, Signature Healthcare Brockton Hospital, Cape Cod Hospital, Holyoke Medical Center, Merrimack Valley Hospital and Quincy Medical Center.

    Mass. alcohol sales tax set to disappear on Jan. 1

    Massachusetts shoppers soon will no longer have to pay the state’s 6.25 percent sales tax on alcohol sold in stores.

    Come Jan. 1 the tax is set to disappear. Voters approved a ballot question in November eliminating the levy.

    Alcohol was exempt until 2009 when lawmakers expanded the sales tax to include beer and wine sold in stores and use the extra revenue to help fund substance abuse programs.

    The package store industry and beer distributors launched an advertising campaign in support of a ballot question to repeal the tax, ultimately outspending supporters of the tax by a 10 to one margin.

    Store owners argued the tax hurt sales, especially for stores on the border with tax-free New Hampshire.

    Associated Press