IS FORMER STATE Rep. David Nangle a corrupt politician and expert at the legislative quid pro quo, or is he a compassionate, caring man felled by an addiction to gambling?
Sentencing memos written by prosecutors and defense attorneys paint starkly different portraits of the Lowell Democrat, who is expected to be sentenced on Wednesday by US District Court Judge Rya Zobel.
The government is asking that Nangle be sentenced to 18 months in prison for using his campaign account for lavish personal expenses and making false statements on bank and tax documents – what Assistant US Attorney Dustin Chao called a “persistent and pernicious abuse of power.” Nangle’s attorney Carmine Lepore is asking that Nangle be spared jail time and instead sentenced to 12 months of home confinement, followed by three years of supervised release.
Nangle, 60, who served in the House for 22 years, is a former chair of the House Ethics Committee and a member of former House Speaker Robert DeLeo’s leadership team.
Lepore said Nangle has already suffered for his actions, losing his seat in the House and taking a major blow to his reputation and his integrity. Nangle ran for reelection in 2020 after his arrest, but lost in the Democratic primary. “Mr. Nangle has accepted responsibility for his actions and hopes to move on and put the pieces of his life back together,” Lepore wrote.
In February, Nangle pleaded guilty to 23 criminal counts, including wire fraud, bank fraud, making false statements to a bank, and filing false tax returns. He admitted to using more than $70,000 in campaign funds for personal expenses, including golf club dues, meals, and trips to casinos. He lied about his income on bank loan applications and tax returns.
Chao’s memo portrays Nangle as a conniving politician. According to the sentencing memo, Nangle was called to the Office of Campaign and Political Finance in 2016, when the director told him to stop abusing a legislative expense account, from which Nangle had requested reimbursement for driving 40,000 miles in two years for constituent services.
The memo talks about Nangle paying a middleman to collect his gambling winnings at a casino so he would not have to pay taxes. It details an ongoing arrangement with a Billerica businessman who paid Nangle tens of thousands of dollars for “consulting,” after which Nangle sponsored a legislative amendment that financially benefited a developer who was the businessman’s client. When the FBI and IRS started looking into the relationship, the businessman and Nangle met in a garage to sign a phony, backdated employment contract to justify the payments.
“Nangle may not have invented the classic quid pro quo, but he played his role to perfection,” Chao wrote.
Chao argues that given the ongoing nature of Nangle’s crimes and his attempt to cover it up, a prison sentence is warranted. “Public officials must promote respect for the law, not make a mockery of the law by blatantly obstructing justice, especially when it comes to hiding their own corruption and fraud,” Chao wrote.
But Nangle’s attorneys wrote that Nangle is fundamentally a good person – “an effective, diligent, caring and loyal representative of his constituents” – whose addiction drove his crimes. According to the defense’s sentencing memo, Nangle has struggled with gambling addiction since he was a teenager. As a high school senior in 1978, he went $800 in debt to a bookmaker and had to take out a loan to repay it. He continued gambling throughout his life, and his problems contributed to his 2005 divorce.
It was not until his arrest in February 2020 that he finally confronted his addiction. In May 2020, Nangle admitted himself into a treatment center in Virginia, where he completed a three-week inpatient program to treat his gambling disorder. He continues to get treatment, and receives support from Gamblers Anonymous.
“One does not need to strain to see the connection between Mr. Nangle’s addiction and the behavior that lead to the crimes with which he was charged,” Lepore wrote. “Again, this is not offered, or intended in any way to excuse or justify Mr. Nangle’s actions, but to provide some explanation and insight as to how a caring, thoughtful ,and respected individual, with no prior experience in the criminal justice system, has ended up here.”
The defense submitted 27 letters from Nangle’s family, friends, and constituents, who painted him as a man who prided himself on constituent services and went out of his way to help others.
Nangle’s siblings, daughter, and ex-wife wrote on his behalf. His daughter Kellie Nangle Callahan said she is in recovery for substance abuse, and her father saved her life. “If it weren’t for my father I wouldn’t be here today,” she wrote.
His siblings said Nangle took care of their elderly parents and continues to care for their elderly relatives and a paralyzed nephew. As a state representative, he took calls regularly from constituents who needed help and Nangle went above and beyond, driving a constituent to chemotherapy, or giving a wife rides to and from her husband’s adult day care.
James Campanini, the former editor of the Lowell Sun, wrote that Nangle would help anyone who called him, from a family trying to get child into a substance abuse program to a senior citizen seeking a nursing home bed. He said Nangle has been “haunted by the unrelenting pain” of having disappointed his family, friends, and constituents.
Campanini said Nangle is now working in the kitchen in his cousin’s restaurant to make ends meet, while still driving neighbors to COVID-19 vaccination sites and delivering meals to a local monastery for retired clergy.
Many of those who wrote letters of support benefited from or witnessed Nangle’s acts of kindness. A friend who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis said Nangle drove him to and from doctor’s appointments and helped with grocery shopping. Another friend said Nangle helped his struggling son get into a vocational school. A cousin said Nangle drove her husband to and from cancer treatments. He advocated for a boy with a brain injury to get a specialized school placement. Nangle helped a large immigrant family who were living in a motel enter public housing. He helped a friend’s girlfriend get into a rehabilitation hospital after an accident.
“It was not unheard of to see David running errands for an elderly constituent, shoveling the walk of a friend, or driving someone in need to a medical appointment,” family friend Maureen Gillette Spinney wrote.
Helen DiGiorgio, whose son is friends with Nangle, called Nangle “a good man who has made mistakes.” “Gambling is an addiction and should be treated as an illness,” she wrote, asking the judge to show “compassion and leniency.”