I’ve pointed to several times that the Boston Globe seems to have too close of a relationship with the U.S. Attorney’s office in Boston. An example of this is where on December 31, 2011, its closeness compelled it to call the relatively new U.S. Attorney, Carmen Ortiz, the Bostonian of the Year, even though she had only held the job for two years. Reading through the article one had to strain oneself to figure out what she had done to have achieved such commendation. In a city jammed full of the best medical, scientific, educational, business and engineering professionals who have contributed so much to our lives to reach out and find a government functionary seemed to suggest something else was in the wind.
Reading the article one could see that as U.S. Attorney she had done very little. The public corruption cases the Globe gave her credit for had been started under the former U.S. attorney Sullivan. Judge Nancy Gertner scratched her head when asked by the Globe of her take on Ortiz saying “she is still waiting to see major white-collar prosecutions – including antitrust and environmental cases – manifest under Ortiz.”
We do know of a couple of cases that her office handled since she has been in office: one, the Aaron Swartz case where she indicted him in July 2011. Then because he proclaimed his innocence she piled up additional charges on him in July 2012, a tawdry tactic her office is noted for doing. Judge Gertner said of the Swartz case, “this is the example of bad judgment I saw too often.” The other which I covered here was her attempt to steal the Caswell Motel from a guy whose family had owned it for 40 years.
What was in the wind can be seen in the penultimate paragraph of the Bostonian of the Year article which said: “Many tests of her anti-corruption work lie ahead. A federal grand jury has for months been investigating alleged wrongdoing at the state Probation Department.” Was it a little nudge to Ortiz that she owed the Globe something for the puff piece?
The Probation Department was the subject of the Globe’s Spotlight Team on May 23, 2010. If you know anything about the history of how the Globe handles Spotlight Team matters it seems that it produces its first report, then has all its staff beat the drums to continue reporting on the issue, and this done until it gets the appropriate response from the prosecutors. An example of this is its coverage of the probation matter.
Another example is the reports the Globe did on the 75 State Street affair involving Billy Bulger who in his book While the Music Lasts noted that:”In fewer than four months . . . the Globe, under nineteen different bylines, had printed sixty-nine articles about 75 State Street, most of them on page one. It had also published six editorials, two columns on its op-ed pages and five cartoons.” Testimony in Whitey Bulger’s trial showed a Spotlight Team reporter was in continuing contact with an FBI supervisor urging him not to close down his investigation of Billy Bulger even though he had found no criminal wrongdoing.
The U.S. Attorney’s office’s AUSA Fred Wyshak following the Globe’s ongoing pressure would indict the head of the Probation Department, John O’Brien, and two of subordinates for racketeering. Their crime was sending out rejection letters to people who didn’t get the jobs who were allegedly more qualified than those who were hired. They face 20 years in prison.
Wyshak said last Friday according to the Globe: “”This case is about falsifying documents” to hide the rigged hiring system. . . . “The crime is the fraud, the falsifying documents.”” I assume the rigged hiring system means the use of patronage which is another word for such a thing. How does that amount to the federal crime of racketeering?
The Globe’s article also led to O’Brien being indicted by the Massachusetts attorney general on other charges. He was acquitted after trial. (The Globe while noting he was indicted on its summary page of the Probation Department matters fails to note this acquittal .)
Now here’s the problem when a newspaper like the Globe develops a sinister, one-hand-washes-the-other relationship with the U.S. attorney. The case is its baby, and hopefully it’ll lead to the promised land of a Pulitzer so it dare not print anything that detracts from that goal. It has to become a cheer leader for the prosecutors.
Over the last week the underbelly of this type of quid pro quo dealings has become clear. The Boston Herald finding a little courage of its own and throwing off its bootlick attitude to the Globe, has been covering the Probation Department hearings. On Sunday, its columnist Peter Gelzinis noted how Carmen Ortiz herself clearly was not the most qualified person to be named U.S. Attorney.
Prior to then the Herald has been covering the hearings in the O’Brien case where defense counsel are starting to hone in on the absurdity of the allegations. The prosecution has been sitting on lists of people who also got jobs through patronage which they have finally turned over to defense counsel. The Globe seemed to reluctantly cover the hearing last Friday. Where the Herald told how counsel “waved a roughly 40-page “sponsors” list which seemed to be the main subject of the hearing that was hardly mentioned in the Globe.
The O’Brien case involves issues similar to those seen in Whitey Bulger’s case. A judge with a relationship that brings into question his impartiality; the prosecutor doing judge shopping to bring the case before a judge he prefers; and the long delays in producing relevant documents. The defense lawyers seem to be quite aggressive in asserting their clients rights which is very necessary to a fair trail. They seem to be able to show that patronage appointments are common in Massachusetts and to pick out the probation people can only be justified by the Globe’s influence in the case. One wonders why defense counsel have not asked for all communications between the Globe and the U.S. Department of Justice relative to this case.
One thing we know for sure is the Globe has a dog in the fight so its coverage will be tainted by this as it was with both the case against John Connolly and Whitey Bulger. But for once there will be a chance to find the truth since it seems the Boston Herald at least this one time may not dance to the Globe’s tune and will give us a true view of the trial. That remains to be seen.