Barely News: Donut-Driven $1 Million Bribery Arrest of Massachusetts Democrat Legislator

Former Massachusetts State Senator Brian Joyce was arrested a week ago and charged with accepting over $1 million in bribes. The story has received very little coverage outside of New England, even though Joyce was quite creative in the forms of bribery he accepted, and even though Joyce's arrest continues a long trend of corruption among Bay State Democratic Party legislative leaders and politicians.

I found one of the rare examples of coverage outside of New England at the Los Angeles Times. There, at a blog called the Daily Meal, Elizabeth Licata attempted to get cute with the story, filing the following report (presented in full because of its brevity and for fair use and discussion purposes; links are in original; bolds are mine throughout this post):

Former state Senator allegedly took Dunkin' Donuts coffee as a bribe

Former Massachusetts state senator Brian Joyce was charged this week with accepting over a million dollars in bribes. According to court documents, one of the things on Joyce's very long list of alleged kickbacks is over 700 pounds of Dunkin' Donuts coffee.

According to Boston.com, Joyce was arrested Friday, December 8, and has been charged with crimes that include racketeering, extortion, wire fraud, and money laundering after a two-year FBI investigation. Joyce had represented his district as a state senator since 1998, but announced last year that he would not seek re-election. He made the announcement not long after his law office was reportedly raided by the FBI in February 2016.

In one of the examples of alleged bribery included in the indictment, Joyce reportedly took legislative action to assist a Dunkin' Donuts franchisee, who reportedly paid him back with 704 pounds of free Dunkin' Donuts coffee and more than $125,000 in "purported legal fees."

According to the indictment, Joyce said in an email that he wanted "no decaf" and added "we like K-cups at my office if possible."

In addition to the coffee, Joyce was accused of accepting a Jeep from a developer, free dry cleaning for a decade, and numerous monetary bribes.

Joyce pleaded not guilty to the charges, but the investigation against his reportedly ongoing. Boston is known for its abiding love of Dunkin' Donuts, and here are the rest of the world's best cities for coffee.

What's missing? Joyce's Democratic Party affiliation, even though the Associated Press story carried at the Boston.com link in Licata's story identified him as a Democrat in its second paragraph.

Although identical versions of the AP story (here and here) are at Boston.com, the only immediate contributions by Globe reporters relating to the Joyce arrest consist of a December 8 "Five Takeaways" item by Travis Andersen and an appropriately critical column that same day by the paper's Kevin Cullen.

That said, Cullen cites Globe reporter Andrea Estes as the person "who exposed so much of these high crimes and misdemeanors," and the indictment itself cites her reporting on Joyce's behavior.

WBUR in Boston held off on identifying Joyce as a Democrat until its its December 8 report's eleventh of 15 paragraphs. Unlike AP, WBUR reporter Benjamin Swasey only vaguely referred to the Milton Democrat's leadership role in the State Senate, failing to identify him as its Assistant Majority Leader during the 2015-2016 legislative session.

The AP's Bob Salsberg reported that the Joyce indictment contains 113 counts. Those inclined to review that indictment are warned that their eyes will glaze over at the scope and breadth of Joyce's alleged criminal efforts.

Cullen's Globe column was caustic, and noted that Joyce's arrest fits a long-term pattern (links are in original):

... In a day and age when it seems too many politicians can’t keep their hands to themselves, the principal thing Joyce seemed primarily focused on grabbing was money.

Massachusetts has had its share of crooked pols. But they look like pikers compared to Joyce. The feds say Joyce pocketed somewhere in the neighborhood of $1 million in bribes and kickbacks. That’s a pretty nice neighborhood.

... I come from Boston, and when it comes to politicians bent as pretzels, the Windy City has nothing on us.

That is sadly the case.

A July 2015 slide presentation at the Globe identifies a half-dozen politicians (five Democrats and one Green Party member) who were sentenced to prison time in the past nine years.

Besides Joyce, the AP's Salsberg uniquely reminded readers that, more recently, "(Stan) Rosenberg announced Monday he was stepping aside as president of the chamber during a Senate Ethics Committee investigation into the circumstances surrounding reported sexual misconduct allegations by several men against his husband, Bryon Hefner."

A search at the New York Times done at 9:30 p.m. ET on Friday indicates that the paper has not published a story on Joyce's arrest.

A Google News search of ["Brian Joyce" Massachusetts] (typed exactly as indicated between brackets) returned 59 items. The majority of the listings were items originating at New England-based outlets; several others represented the AP story carried at other outlets, most of which usually go virtually unnoticed by readers. Notable exceptions include stories at Time and Newsweek. But after a full week, there are no comments at the Newsweek story, indicating that the website has given it little if any prominence (the Time item appears not to take user comments).

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If a Republican or conservative state senator were to be arrested for taking over $1 million in bribes, especially in such unusual ways, rest assured that his or her situation would get far more press coverage, and would likely rise to the level of becoming comic fodder for the late-night talk shows.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.


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