Ex-Mass. probation chief faces new federal charges
BOSTON (AP) — The former commissioner of the Massachusetts Probation Department, acquitted this month of state corruption charges, is facing new federal bribery charges.
The indictment handed up Wednesday charges John O’Brien with 17 counts of bribing state legislators by giving jobs to their supporters, friends and relatives in exchange for increases to his department’s budget and other political favors.
The superseding indictment says O’Brien and two deputies did “conspire, confederate, and agree to give jobs and salaries” to candidates promoted by state legislators “in order to influence” them.
The 56-page indictment, first reported by The Boston Globe, alleges O’Brien bribed Senate President Therese Murray at least three times by giving jobs to people she recommended. O’Brien also allegedly bribed House Speaker Robert DeLeo at least 10 times, in part to help him as he began his successful campaign to become speaker in 2009.
Neither Murray nor DeLeo — or any other lawmakers — was indicted.
DeLeo said in a statement that the superseding indictment appeared to be a more detailed repetition of what has already been charged.
“It is clear that I am not a party to the indictment, but I want to state emphatically: I only recommended job applicants who were qualified. I never gave or received any benefits from those recommendations, and I never traded jobs for votes. There is no one who could honestly say otherwise,” said DeLeo, D-Winthrop.
A spokesman for Murray said it’s “misleading and irresponsible” to suggest she had anything to do with the alleged probation department scheme.
“The indictment, when read properly, states that the probation department intended to influence legislators. Nothing in the indictment says the senate president was influenced or had any knowledge of an alleged probation department scheme,” Murray spokesman David Falcone said in a statement.
Falcone said Murray has worked to control probation department spending while ensuring its public safety role, and that she led “a forceful reform of the department when allegations of improper hiring practices emerged.”
In the indictment, Murray and DeLeo are only referred to by their job titles.
At one point, the indictment refers to a memo that an aide to Murray drafted to her in March 2008, noting that an individual identified only by her initials in the indictment had been hired for a job in Plymouth District Court.
“She’s very excited and grateful to you; her interview was just OK but (she) knows it was because of your intervention that she was selected,” the aide wrote in the memo.
An attorney for O’Brien did not immediately return a call seeking comment on the indictment.
The indictment expands on racketeering charges originally brought against O’Brien and two of O’Brien’s former deputies, William Burke and Elizabeth Tavares.
Lawyers for O’Brien’s co-defendants downplayed the significance of the new accusations, telling the Globe that prosecutors are repackaging the same charges.
O’Brien resigned in 2011 after an independent counsel found he oversaw a rigged hiring system in which the politically connected got department jobs over more qualified candidates.
The defendants will face all the charges in a single trial at a date to be determined. The alleged crimes carry a sentence of up to 10 years for each charge.
Associated Press Writer Bob Salsberg contributed to this report.