Congressman John Tierney has rebutted accusations by his convicted brother-in-law that he had been aware of the illegal off shore gambling operation for which Daniel Eremian faces three years in federal prison.
Tierney said late Thursday the accusations were motivated by bitterness and "old family grudges."
But the claims of Daniel Eremian after his sentencing Thursday that Tierney "knew everything that was going on" in the international gaming enterprise for which Eremian faces prison time have reignited a fierce dispute in the campaign between Democratic incumbent Tierney and Republican Richard Tisei over the degree of knowledge — if any — Tierney had of the offshore gaming activities and finances involving his estranged brothers-in-law and his wife, Patrice.
Patrice Tierney pleaded guilty in 2010 to charges of filing false tax returns for her brother Robert Eremian, who is a fugitive; She served a month in a federal detention facility in Connecticut, and remains on probation.
A pivotal issue in the argument between the campaigns involves the words of Judge William Young at the sentencing of Patrice Tierney in January 2011.
In his sentencing remarks, Young indicates that he is not agreeing to a no-time plea deal by noting, in part, that "she's married to a congressman who is not implicated in this in any way, shape or form."
Tierney's camp Friday cited Young's words as exoneration, Tisei's as evidence of a distortion of the judge's comments.
In a statement issued late Thursday night, Tierney said: "Daniel Eremian spent the last several years telling anyone who would listen, including a federal judge and jury, that he was innocent of charges the government accused him of committing.
"Now he is claiming both to be innocent and that John Tierney should have known that he was guilty," Tierney said in the emailed statement to the Times. "His claims lack both credibility and logic.
"The fact of the matter is, John Tierney knew exactly what Federal Judge Tauro, an Assistant U.S. attorney, and a supervising parole officer thought they knew when they issued a court order in 2002 to allow Robert Eremian to return to Antigua to continue working at Sports Off Shore, a legal internet gambling company," Tierney's statement reads. "After a thorough and exhaustive investigation, Republican-appointed Federal Judge Young said that John Tierney was 'not implicated in this in any way, shape or form.'"
Friday, the Tisei campaign fired back:
"Again this morning, we see John Tierney taking Judge Young's comments out of context to assert his innocence," said Tisei Campaign Manager Paul Moore. "A full reading of the transcript reveals that Judge Young was quite rightly saying that the person to whom Patrice Tierney was married should have no bearing on the sentence imposed. Indeed, the judge went out of his way to impartially sentence Patrice Tierney on that day with no benefit or detriment attaching to the fact that she was married to the Congressman."
The disputed statement by Judge Young was made on Jan. 12, 2011 in response to the prosecution's request that Patrice Tierney be allowed to avoid doing prison time, as the plea agreement held.
"Let me say it back to you, because I'm not sure I understand it," Young said, per the official court transcript. "You're saying that because she's married to a congressman, who is not implicated in this in any way, shape or form, but simply because of that marriage, not surprisingly this generates some media interest, and because of that you're saying sort of the shame and the general public awareness that this individual has pleaded guilty and owned up to a crime that warrants probation — where someone not in the news at all would get some jail time? That can't be the argument."
But while the judge's remarks come across as if he's reprising earlier statements. neither the prosecutor, Fred Wychak, nor defense counsel Donald Stern had made statements to that effect.
"Tierney and his campaign have shamelessly used Judge Young's fairness and impartiality like it was a papal dispensation," Moore said Friday "The matter at hand was the sentencing of Patrice Tierney for her illegal conduct, to which she had plead. That was the 'this' to which the judge was clearly referring.
"Judge Young was not then examining a matter that might involve John Tierney. It was Patrice's sentencing, it was her name on the docket, and Patrice's illegal conduct for which she had admitted guilt," Moore continued. "He could just as easily have said that the matter before him had nothing to do with Richard Tisei or the Man on the Moon or Brad Pitt.
"For John Tierney and his aides to assert otherwise is a grotesque distortion of the judge's words," he said. "The congressman ought to apologize for these distortions immediately."
Tierney's camp rebutted.
"Until this bizarre interpretation, there has been no dispute of what the judge said or meant to say," said Tierney consultant Michael Goldman. "Every reporter in that room interpreted the judge's statement as intending to separate John Tierney from his wife's actions. It's the height of arrogance to think that reporters present got it wrong while people reading the transcript got it right."
Eremian and his brother, Robert, who is a fugitive, were convicted and Patrice pleaded guilty in 2010 to helping Robert file false tax returns. Tierney has always said he was unaware of any illegal activities on the part of his wife with regard to her family.
After his federal court sentencing on Thursday, Daniel Eremian called Tierney "the biggest liar in the world" and said Tierney let his wife take the fall for him.
"He knew everything that was going on," Eremian, 62, said of his congressman-brother-in-law. "He sat in the boxes with bookies at Fenway Park."
Tierney said Friday he was caught off guard by Eramian's comments.
"I was incredulous," he said. "Where the hell is this coming from? I don't know why he would inflict all this pain on his sister."
Richard Gaines can be reached at 978-283-7000 x3464, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Staff Writer Julie Manganis contributed to this story.