Massachusetts Democrat lawmaker facing extensive corruption charges found dead

A Massachusetts lawmaker who prosecutors say was at the center of a massive political corruption case was found dead on Thursday.

Mysterious death

The wife of former state Sen. Brian A. Joyce found him dead in their Westport, Mass. home, authorities from the Bristol County District Attorney’s office say. For the time being, investigators have ruled out “foul play” as a possible cause of death.

Joyce was awaiting trial in a 113-count indictment which included charges of racketeering, extortion, wire fraud and money laundering. Prosecutors maintain that the veteran state senator administered a robust criminal enterprise and accepted as much as $1 million in bribes and kickbacks, which he subsequently laundered through his law firm.  

“We believe Mr. Joyce was greedy, plain and simple,” FBI Special Agent Hank Shaw, who led the corruption investigation, said after Joyce’s arrest.

Criminal enterprise

Joyce, who was just 56 years old at the time of his death, earned hundreds of thousands of dollars in schemes dating back to at least 2010. He established a shell company to accept kickbacks from an energy firm and received gifts for exerting his political influence on behalf of local companies, such as a car dealership and a Dunkin’ Donuts who rewarded Joyce with a Jeep and hundreds of pounds of free coffee.

In February 2016, authorities from the FBI and IRS raided Joyce’s law office, prompting him to sell his Milton home and family burial plot, ostensibly to pay for legal fees. A year later, the Democratic senator was led from his home in handcuffs and hauled off to jail, where he was eventually released on a $250,000 bond.

Joyce had pleaded not guilty and his attorney, Howard Cooper, insisted that his client was innocent of the multiple charges he was facing. A trial date had not yet been established when the lawmaker passed away.

“Brian Joyce represented over 100,000 Massachusetts citizens in the state Legislature,’’ acting U.S. Attorney William Weinreb said at the time. “He had a duty to serve them honestly. And he violated that duty by accepting bribes and kickbacks in exchange for his official action.”

Strange circumstances

Republican Gov. Charlie Baker also took the time to comment on Joyce’s arrest, saying that he found the allegations against the state senator shameful. “People in public life need to respect the offices they hold and that means not using them for personal gain, and if the feds believe there’s enough there to justify an indictment then the investigation needs to be thorough and move forward accordingly,” he said.

Massachusetts’ chief medical examiner is scheduled to perform an autopsy on Joyce. Details from this procedure could provide significant clues explaining the circumstances surrounding his death.

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Boston’s WCVB-TV reported that Joyce was involved in a car crash on Wednesday, the day before his death, although it is not clear if the accident had anything to do with his death. The investigation remains “active and ongoing.”

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