BOSTON (CBS/AP) — Former state probation commissioner John O’Brien has been found guilty in a scheme to rig the agency’s hiring process to favor applicants who had the backing of powerful state legislators, often at the expense of more qualified job candidates.
O’Brien was convicted of federal racketeering and mail fraud.
The jury also convicted one of O’Brien’s former deputies, Elizabeth Tavares, of racketeering and mail fraud. Another former official, William Burke, was convicted of a racketeering conspiracy charge and acquitted of other charges.
Sentencing is set for November 18.
The jury, which got the case after some final instructions from U.S. District Court Judge William Young, deliberated for seven days.
They almost immediately requested a list of the 60 witnesses who testified during the two-month trial, and the dates on which they took the stand.
No legislators were charged in the case.
House Speaker Robert DeLeo issued a series of statements earlier this month denying assertions made by prosecutors that he traded jobs for votes from fellow lawmakers during his bid for the speakership. DeLeo said prosecutors “knowingly mischaracterized” testimony at the trial.
In a statement following the verdict, DeLeo said that the jury did not find any evidence of bribery, thus clearing him and other legislators.
“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,” he wrote in a statement. “The jury’s verdict today is consistent with the findings of the Independent Counsel almost four years ago—which found no impropriety on my part.”
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Young reminded the jury before they started deliberations that patronage, by itself, is not a crime, and that prosecutors must show that criminal acts were committed.
During closing arguments, assistant U.S. Attorney Karin Bell said the defendants created a “sham” hiring system designed to give the impression that candidates were being hired on merit, in hopes of favorable treatment from lawmakers on legislative issues.
“That’s not patronage,” Bell contended. “That’s fraud and bribery.”
Defense attorneys argued the government failed to prove any crimes, with Burke’s attorney, John Amabile, calling the prosecution a “witch hunt” and a “mudslinging operation.”
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