It’s OK to lie to a Massachusetts grand jury.
Or, at least, it’s not that big a deal, certainly not big enough to merit any substantial punishment.
That was the message Superior Court Judge Maynard Karpalani sent when he delivered a light pat on the wrist to Wilfredo Laboy II, the son of the disgraced former superintendent of schools.
Laboy lied to a grand jury during an investigation into his father’s abuse of his position and misuse of school resources in a school district so strapped financially that it relies on taxpayers from across the state to sustain itself. The elder Laboy was convicted last March of embezzlement and fraud.
Among other things, Laboy delegated school employees to serve as his son’s personal chauffeurs — the younger Laboy had no license after two drunken driving convictions so they drove him to the pizza shops in North Andover and Lawrence where he worked.
When the younger Laboy bought his own pizza shop in Methuen, his solicitous dad also allowed the school print shop to design and produce the menus.
The younger Laboy denied both charges when called before the grand jury. He said he couldn’t remember being chauffeured in a School Department pickup truck.
He lied and, after failing to get the perjury charges against him tossed, admitted as much on Tuesday as his trial was about to begin.
Prosecutor Maureen Leal asked for a 2 1/2 year sentence, with one year to be served.
“The crime strikes at the heart of the judicial system and warrants incarceration,” she said.
Leal is correct. Perjury is a serious crime and one that ought to have consequences.
But the judge instead placed Laboy on probation for a year. Karpalani offered no explanation for his decision.
Perhaps he was mindful that the senior Laboy, for all his misdeeds, was sentenced to only 90 days in jail and served only 60.
And that two others implicated in a scandal that brought shame to the city and disrupted a struggling school system for more than a year got off with only probation.
We believe that in a case that struck at the heart of the judicial system, the judge owed the public an explanation.
Otherwise it appears that in Essex County you can lie to a grand jury without fear of jail time or even a fine.
Good to know.