BOSTON--Senate President William M. Bulger said yesterday he was libeled by celebrity lawyer and Harvard Professor of Law Alan M. Dershowitz at a judicial hearing last week, but that a lawsuit would be a waste of time.
The hearing on the nomination of Bulger's top aide, Paul Mahoney, to a judgeship in the Malden District Court, turned into a war of words between Bulger and Dershowitz.
Dershowitz raised questions about Mahoney's defense of Bulger during the 75 State Street investigation and about Bulger's status in the probe. Harvey Silverglate, a friend of Dershowitz' represented developer Harold Brown in the case.
Brown claimed during the 1988 controversy that Bulger accepted money through a former legal associate, Thomas Finnerty, in return for influence on the project. Bulger paid the money back within a year, and a federal investigation found no wrong-doing on his part.
Asked if he felt Dershowitz had libeled him, Bulger said, "Yes."
Asked to specify the statements he considered libelous, Bulger said, "Why should I repeat it? Some of the vile things. I don't want to repeat it. It's too vile and too rotten. It was not even part of the hearing. That hearing can never be understood unless it is understood in its full context."
Dershowitz did not return a call placed to his telephone number, which was answered by an electronic message device.
However, Dershowitz requested a transcript of the Senate president's remarks at the council hearing and said he would deal with them in "another and more appropriate forum."
Bulger said he had no plans to file a libel suit against Dershowitz. Under libel law, both men likely would be ruled public figures, which creates a heavy burden of proof for plaintiffs in law suits.
"The law is all weighted against the plaintiffs. It's expensive. It's time consuming. It's almost impossible to win a victory. It's very difficult for a public person. So it isn't worth it," Bulger said.
Over the course of last week's hearing, Bulger labeled Dershowitz "crafty," "vindictive," "a true, true conniver," "beneath contempt," and "a compulsive liar."
Asked about concerns the remarks could be construed as anti-Semitic, Bulger said Monday, "The man is a liar. And it makes no difference what his nationality or his religion is. He is a liar. And he is a murderer of reputation. And he is a conniver and he is whatever else I called him that day."
Bulger said he stood by the statements he made at the hearing.
"The words speak for themselves. They describe him perfectly. As a matter of fact, the only regret I have about that hearing is that I was too mild," Bulger said.
Bulger said he did not anticipate any problems with Mahoney getting confirmed.
But he said he had not spoken to any of the eight councilors since Wednesday's hearing and did not intend to unless he encountered them in the Statehouse.