And so the federal conspiracy and racketeering trial came to an end this week. It arose out of the Massachusetts Probation Department. When the dust cleared, former Probation Commissioner John J. O’Brien, as well as his deputies William H. Burke III and Elizabeth V. Tavares, were found guilty of several charges and O’Brien’s wife was screaming in the courtroom that “the government is corrupt”.
Then, she fainted and that was that.
Ironically, the subject matter of her shouts was what the trial was about. Government corruption.
I would expect, however, that she was not talking about the same corruption about which the jury had just rendered their verdicts.
Given the high profile convictions, United States Attorney Carmen Ortiz was on hand for another moment in the (way-too-hot) sun to address the media.
“After weeks of testimony it became clear that there was serious corruption in the practices of the Probation Department,” she announced after the trial outside the federal courthouse on the waterfront in South Boston. “This is especially troubling to those of us in law enforcement who understand the critically important role probation plays in the criminal justice system.”
One might assume that this case had been about preferential treatment given to probationers, or negligent oversight of probationers or some kind of illegal conduct with regard to the probationers; it is the Probation Department’s sacred duty to oversee.
One would be wrong.
The federal prosecutors had spent 10 weeks arguing that O’Brien, Burke and Tavares conjured up a corrupt hiring process in which they chose sometimes-unqualified applicants under the guise of a legitimate process, and, in return, saw their department’s budget and staff boosted.
The defense argued that their clients did nothing wrong – that they were part of a business-as-usual approach to hiring in the Bay State. They vowed to appeal the verdicts to both the judge and then a federal appeals court.
The jury found the defendants guilty in the following ways:
1. O’Brien – guilty of racketeering conspiracy for running a years-long fixed hiring system as well as four counts of mail fraud and one count each of racketeering;
2. Burke – guilty of the racketeering conspiracy for running the same hiring system; and
3. Tavares – guilty of racketeering conspiracy for running the same system as well as four counts of mail fraud and a count of racketeering.
Sentencing is set for Nov. 18. They all face 20 years in prison on any of the various counts.
Meanwhile, the ripples across the political river continue to expand. Mrs. O’Brien was taken by ambulance to a hospital. Politicians, who were not prosecuted at the trial, but certainly besmirched nonetheless are speaking out.
For example, House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo acknowledged today his name and reputation have been scarred by the probation job-rigging trial that rocked Beacon Hill. However, he announced that he has no plans to step down from the House’s top spot following the guilty verdicts.
The prosecutors alleged that DeLeo conspired with O’Brien to score Probation jobs for lawmakers in return for their backing. He was not a defendant at the conspiracy trial however.
DeLeo has responded that , “The jury’s verdict confirmed what I have been saying all along: that I never participated in a conspiracy with any of the defendants and that I never traded probation jobs for votes….When someone makes certain allegations such as this, I think the unfortunate part is, it does taint you and it taints your reputation.”
It cannot be denied that the United States Attorney was not called upon to present proof against DeLeo or to prove her allegations against him at trial. Nonetheless, her office was free to make accusations against him in the public trial through the named defendants. However, overall, DeLeo says he was “vindicated” that the jury – despite finding O’Brien guilty of racketeering conspiracy – did not find former commissioner guilty of bribery charges related to an alleged quid pro quo to help get DeLeo, then the chair of House Ways and Means, elected Speaker.
Attorney Sam’s Take On The Right To Confront One’s Accusers And Its Denial
Prosecutors reading this posting, or otherwise learning DeLeo’s response, might be thinking he should feel lucky that he was not prosecuted.
Nobody likes to be staring down the barrel of an indictment, federal or otherwise. However, facing criminal charges does, at least, give one a chance to confront accusers in court.
“Well, he can certainly have his say in the media, right, Sam?”
Sure. But is that really the same or is it perceived as mere political “spin”?
We have been brought up on the belief that we are all “innocent until proven guilty” and that we all get a chance to face our accusers and clear our names.
We have discussed these assumptions and how close they come to reality.
We are about to do so again…next week.
Until then, have a great, safe and law-abiding weekend!
For the full story upon which this blog is based, please go to: http://bostonherald.com/news_opinion/local_coverage/2014/07/probation_trio_guilty_in_racketeering_scam and http://bostonherald.com/news_opinion/local_politics/2014/07/deleo_feels_vindicated_by_probation_jury_verdict