BOSTON – A former federal postal inspector was convicted yesterday in federal court of perjury and obstruction of justice.
Joseph M. McGonagle, III, 38, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Nathaniel M. Gorton to perjury and obstruction of justice. Had the case proceeded to trial the Government’s evidence would have proven that McGonagle knowingly and wilfully falsely testified under oath at a May 19, 2010, court hearing held in U.S. District Court in Boston. At the time the offenses were committed, McGonagle was an inspector with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. He had been assigned to the prosecution team in United States v. Eric L. Levine, et al. Levine was tried and convicted by a jury in 2010.
On the evening of May 18, 2010, during the Levine, et al. trial, Levine’s lead defense counsel at Denner Pelligrino learned that McGonagle had a phone conversation that evening with Melanie Abbruzzese, a paralegal employed at Denner Pelligrino. Defense counsel learned that during that conversation, Inspector McGonagle told Abbruzzese that an Assistant U.S. Attorney prosecuting the case had just sent an email to his staff at the U.S. Postal Service indicating the names of the defense witnesses which listed defendant Levine as a possible witness. The following morning, defense counsel alerted the government and the Court of the conversation between Abbruzzese and McGonagle.
Judge O’Toole held a hearing to determine whether there was any breach of confidentiality. McGonagle and Abbruzzese both testified at the hearing under oath.
McGonagle was questioned about the May 18 phone call to Abbruzzese, and more broadly, about his other interactions with Abbruzzese to include contact by email, phone or in person. McGonagle testified that he had no social out-of-office meetings with Abbruzzese, that his email contacts with her were of a professional nature, and that there were no calls during the Levine trial.
Contrary to his testimony, McGonagle had numerous social, out-of-office meetings with Abbruzzese during the Levine trial, including drinks on three occasions all within the10 days prior to his May 19, 2010 testimony. Further, on the evening of May 13, 2010, following their visit to the Bell and Hand restaurant in Boston, McGonagle and Abbruzzese were observed by a co-worker in McGonagle’s car while parked in front of Denner Pelligrino’s office. In addition, documentary evidence, to include cell tower information from Abbruzzese’s cell phone, showed that Abbruzzese had overnight visits at McGonagle’s apartment in Danvers the evenings of May 14 and May 16, 2010.
Furthermore, contrary to McGonagle’s testimony that emails between them were all of a professional nature, there were actually 41 emails between the two work email accounts from March 29 and May 18, 2010. The first three of those emails, dated Mar. 29 through Mar. 30, related to official business. The remaining 38 emails, dated April 12 through May 18, 2010, were all of a personal nature. Finally, although McGonagle testified that “I don’t think there were any phone calls,” cell phone records showed approximately 40 calls between the two between May 5 and May 19, 2010. The prosecutor told the court yesterday that four of those calls actually exceeded one hour, and on the day of their testimony alone, they exchanged seven phone calls.
The evidence would have further shown that McGonagle’s false testimony concerned a matter material to the court’s inquiry. The Judge ruled that McGonagle’s false statements hindered the court’s inquiry into the nature of the relationship between he and Abbruzzese. McGonagle’s false testimony was intended to, and did, conceal the existence of his ongoing relationship with Abbruzzese and thus deprived the court of a fulsome inquiry into whether anything inappropriate, in terms of confidentiality, was passed from one party to the other.
Judge Gorton scheduled sentencing for May 3, 2012. McGonagle faces up to five years in prison on the perjury charge and 10 years in prison for obstruction of justice. He also faces three years of supervised release following incarceration and a $250,000 fine on each charge.
United States Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz and Curtis Lembke, Area Special Agent in Charge, Special Inquiries Division, U.S. Postal Service, Office of Inspector General made the announcement today. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Diane C. Freniere of Ortiz’s Public Corruption and Special Prosecutions Unit.