Salem, Mass. — Armed with new lawyers, two of Lawrence Mayor William Lantigua’s right-hand men appeared in Salem Superior Court yesterday.
Leonard Degnan, Lantigua’s former chief of staff, and Deputy Police Chief Melix Bonilla, the mayor’s campaign manager, are both facing bribery, extortion, and conspiracy charges.
Arraigned on Sept. 12, both men had court appearances scheduled yesterday. Their new attorneys introduced themselves to Judge John Lu and the case was continued until Dec. 21 for possible motions.
Degnan is now represented by former prosecutor turned defense attorney Ted Cranney, his associate Daniel Tarlow, and Lawrence lawyer James Landy, who is Degnan’s close personal friend.
Lawyer Alex Cain and another attorney in his firm, Andrew Zeiberg, are defending Bonilla. Previously, at grand jury appearances and arraignment, Bonilla was represented by Frank Mondano of Boston.
On Sept. 11, the Essex County Grand Jury handed down 10 indictments against Degnan and Bonilla. The charges stem from Bonilla’s alleged swap of 13 city-owned vehicles for four Chevrolets and Degnan’s alleged pressure on the city’s trash hauler to donate a truck to Lantigua’s native Dominican Republic.
Both were charged in connection with a broad-sweeping and intensive investigation that could take out top leadership in the immigrant city including Lantigua, law enforcement sources said.
In April 2011, Lantigua and members of his administration were identified as targets in the multi-jurisdictional investigation involving allegations of corruption, bid rigging, suspicious out-of-state travel, campaign finance violations as well as the shipment of cars and a trash truck to the Dominican Republic.
The news came a little over a year after Lantigua was sworn in as the city’s first elected Hispanic mayor.
After he was indicted, Bonilla was stripped of his gun, badge, unmarked cruiser and police ID and placed on administrative leave.
Earning $140,000 annually, Bonilla remains on the city payroll despite requests from police Chief John Romero, city councilors and other officials to remove him from the payroll while the criminal case is pending.
Degnan, owner of a Salem Street insurance company, served as Lantigua’s chief of staff from January 2010 until May 2011, when he abruptly resigned. The North Andover resident later testified in federal and state grand juries convened in the Lantigua probe.
In the past 17 months, several members of Lantigua’s administration, his closest friends and an array of former and current City Hall workers have been called to testify before the Essex County Grand Jury.
Follow staff reporter Jill Harmacinski on Twitter under the screenname EagleTribJill.