Friday, August 10, 2007

First Things First

Yesterday, the Boston Phoenix's David Bernstein had this to say about the $1,000 criminal indictment faced by Big Dig epoxy supplier Powers Fasteners:

[I]t was pretty clear at yesterday afternoon's press conference that AG Martha Coakley wanted to use the indictment of Powers Fasteners as an impetus to spur the state to change its ridiculous cap on criminal penalties for corporations. Good for her.
Today, it looks like that's exactly what's happening. From the Boston Herald:
With an angry public demanding justice in the tunnel disaster, top state lawmakers vowed yesterday to stiffen an ancient 1819 manslaughter law that could let a Big Dig company get off with a meager $1,000 fine if found guilty in the death of Milena Del Valle.

"Clearly, we've got to take action," said State Sen. Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester), who vowed to file legislation within days. "If we're going to have criminal sanctions, they need to mean something and they must match the seriousness of this situation."
While some may be clamoring for Coakley to take down the major players in the Big Dig investigation like Bechtel/Parsons Brinkerhoff, Gannett Fleming, or Modern Continental, it makes perfect sense to me for her to wait for the legislature to raise the absurdly low cap before going public with any charges against those firms. Can you imagine the outcry if Bechtel were the company facing just a $1,000 fine? Hopefully the legislature will act quickly to update the manslaughter penalties for corporations.