By Jess Bidgood
If you're running for re-election to a federal office, it's not generally good news if your wife pleads guilty to a federal crime.
But that's what's happening to Democratic Rep. John Tierney.
His wife, Patrice Tierney, pled guilty Wednesday to federal charges of helping her brother conceal income from an allegedly illegal business that generated millions of dollars.
Prosecutors allege Ms. Tierney oversaw a Bank of America account that her brother, Robert Eremian, used to house about $7 million in income gleaned from an illegal gambling businesses. They say she mischaracterized the real source of the deposits that went into that account on her tax returns.
In a statement, Rep. Tierney said his wife was too trusting of her brother, who said the money was legally obtained. She used the funds to care for the Eremian's three children after he left his family behind to move abroad. "Patrice has acknowledged and agreed that she should have done more to personally investigate the true nature of Mr. Eremian’s business activities," Tierney wrote.
In an interview with Emily Rooney, Massaschusetts Lawyers Weekly's David Frank explained the court contends Mrs. Tierney was indeed obligated to be more thorough in determining the origin of the funds she was managing. "Because she didn't, the law says she can be found guilty," Frank said.
Still, Frank said, the Tierney's explanation of the situation could get her a lighter sentence even if it won't kept her from being convicted. "The fact that they're apparently going to recommend a probationary sentence as opposed to a prison term in federal court tells you a lot about what they think of the seriousness of the case," Frank said.
"If it wasn't her brother that she was allegedly doing this with and perhaps there weren't young teenage girls that were at stake here, the government might have taken a tougher look at it," Frank said.
After Ms. Tierney filed her guilty plea on Wednesday afternoon, Rep. Tierney spoke briefly. "Today's not about me, I'm here in support of Patrice, my wife," he said. "It's a difficult day for her."
Still, the guilty plea could affect Tierney's campaign for re-election to his post in the 6th Congressional District next month, where he faces the GOP's Bill Hudak in the November elections. Hudak may not be an obvious alternative to Tierney; in a relatively moderate district, he is an anti-choice, anti-gay marriage Republican who in 2008 put out a lawn sign likening then-candidate Barack Obama to Osama Bin Ladin.
Hudak told WGBH he is concerned about the allegations against Ms. Tierney. "It’s disconcerting whenever there are allegations of politicians involved in tax issues, and these are things that need to be investigated," Hudak said.
"News accounts indicate this has been going on for at least 8 years and $7 million is an awfully large amount of money," Hudak said.
Jess Bidgood compiled this report for WGBH, with reporting from Sarah Birnbaum and The Emily Rooney Show.
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