The Globe Shows Its Hand: Admits O’Brien Case Was About Patronage

salem_witchOne of the great travesty of justices is about to occur this afternoon.  Judge William Young will sentence former commissioner John O’Brien to prison for five or more years for engaging in patronage.

For O’Brien to be convicted the judge had to come up with a highly convoluted instruction to the jurors according to attorneys who read it.  One suggested if it was that difficult explaining why the actions of O’Brien were criminal then how could O’Brien be convicted in the first place. Isn’t it the idea that if a man commits a criminal act he should have an inkling that he is doing it. But everyone knows nothing criminal occurred in this case because as the judge himself said “patronage is not a crime.” I suppose what he meant to say (forgive me Orwell) is: “all patronage is not a crime, but some patronage is different than others.”

Remember the O’Brien case began with the Globe’s Spotlight Team article on the patronage in the probation department.  As expected, the Massachusetts Supreme Court followed up on it and eventually the Globe was clamoring for the U.S. attorney to do something about it. She, as it usually occurs when the Globe makes its demand, fell in line. O’Brien was indicted and convicted for patronage even though patronage is not a crime.

But we are supposed to believe this is not about patronage yet the Globe headline for its editorial today states: “John J. O’Brien sentence should send a warning on patronage.” Whoever set the headline apparently slipped and disclosed what we all knew it was about even though the Globe, Judge Young, and the federal prosecutors have tried to tell us wasn’t.

In its editorial it states: Patronage hiring isn’t illegal, but the steps O’Brien took to accommodate lawmakers’ requests . . . of running an elaborate racket, producing a false scoring system to make favored candidates appear that they had been hired on merit.” But that’s all nonsense. Whether O’Brien set up a system to hide the patronage or whether he just went about doing it doesn’t it all amount to the same thing. The truth is patronage means hiring people based on doing a favor for a person’s prior help or for someone else. Whether it is done one way or the other it all amounts to the same thing.

The Globe noted O’Brien hired “politically connected applicants” so the taxpayers did not get the “top-notch Probation Department they deserved.” Again, it is complaining about patronage. Also, I’ve pointed out that since O’Brien had been probation commissioner both criminal activity and recidivism has drastically fallen. There has been no evidence, nor could there ever be, that had patronage not been practiced things would have been different.

The Globe continually points out how the case is about patronage. It writes: Lawmakers can ask officials for favors, but if O’Brien’s sentence scares them into ignoring them, that would be a fine outcome.” Isn’t that telling us what it’s all about? And where is there any proof that things would be better without patronage. I’ve found that lawmakers and judges who recommend candidates will usually suggest those who will do a great job because they are putting themselves on the line for a person. Does the Globe naively think that everyone hired aside from patronage turns out to be a winner?

The Globe urges Young to give O’Brien a harsh sentence since he shows no remorse. Why should he. He didn’t do anything wrong. It’s like asking innocent people to show remorse and get a break on parole. Remember Gerald A. “Tooky” Amirault was held in prison for 18 years in part because he was innocent and wouldn’t show remorse.

Then if there is any doubt about what the case is about the Globe admits in the final two sentences the crime is in fact patronage. It tells us its purpose in urging the case be brought and in demanding Judge Young to slam O’Brien who is in his mid to late Fifties and has never been involved in any criminal activities during his lifetime: “Cleaning up state government will require the political system as a whole to finally reject patronage hiring, and the system of winks and nods that supports it. A tough sentence might help send that message.

justice weepsDon’t tell me the case wasn’t about patronage. That’s all it was about. The sentencing of John J. O’Brien today is as valid as the sentencing of the women as witches in the old days in Salem.  Lady Justice Weeps.


7 thoughts on “The Globe Shows Its Hand: Admits O’Brien Case Was About Patronage

  1. Matt : Fulsome praise indeed, and William, that was in fact a terrific post. It is an entangled and thorny issue, Patronage, when does an interested ” Push ” become an organized administrative ” Putsch” of the system, taking Patronage into an embarrassing space where we can all smell that it is not slmply Patronage as our mothers and fathers knew it, anymore?
    Hey, anyone ever hear of a ” Martha Coakley? ” … Matt, you can put your hand down. 🙂 Martha admitted in a February Herald Interview that she engaged in the same lobbying practices she prosecuted O’ Brien for : Starting in 2005 she curried favor with the Probation Department of all places, on behalf of a female neighbor, putting her ” Martha Coakley” all over the application. She did this subsequently for two other female neighbors. One, a Quinn, belonged to a family that donated thousands to Martha’s campaign war chest between 2005-2013.
    Yet Matt, nary a mention of your favorite politician in your post. Never mind any ” faux pas”‘ agonizing…. how about QUEL SURPRISE 🙂 … Martha was way way waywardly as it turned out, ahead of the US Attorney on O’Brien following the Globe Spotlight investigation. As for John O’Brien, who I know personally and like, I am sure he is wondering how such back slapping in the corridors of power could turn into being so slapped back, hard, in those same corridors . I pray that Judge Young will keep THE BIG PICTURE 🙂 I’m mind today, and takes a prudent turn away from his usual strict sentencing, when he sentences Probation Commissioner John “Jack” O’Brien .

    1. Ernie:

      Your are right on the money. Do you remember the big raid Ortiz’s office did on the taxi company after the Globe Spotlight series on that. Another case of the Globe wagging the US Attorney. Wonder what happened to that? It was amazing that search warrants could be obtained when no crime was committed. Only in Boston.

  2. If the starting qualification is the individual must have a college degree…

    Do you mean to tell me…if you are the IT group of the Probation Department…and Bill Gates submits his resume for a position…you couldn’t hire him because he wasn’t a college graduate?

    If the answer is yes (meaning you could NOT hire him), wow. Really shortsighted.

    If the answer is no…then, and I hate to get all, “A Few Good Men” on this…but: Why the two orders? If the idea is to hire the most qualified candidates– why wouldn’t we hire Bill Gates? He created the software you are using. He’s supremely qualified. Why can’t the hiring officer use their own judgment? It doesn’t work for me. Again, shortsighted.

    The fact is, this is an extremely slippery slope that has created a terrible awful precedent that can’t be undone now…what’s worse is they get to pick and choose and decide where the line begins and ends. Using a corked bat in baseball is cheating in baseball…but, when an outfielder traps a ball and stands up (knowing he didn’t catch it) and makes it appear that he caught it…hoping to get a call from the ump.

    What’s different? They’re both trying to get an edge. They’re both looking to take advantage of something and hope they don’t get caught…maybe steal a run…or an out.

    Corking your bat = cheating
    Trapping the ball = gamesmanship

    Politician recommends a candidate = rigged hiring
    Judge recommends a hiring = qualified candidate

    This is a shame and Matt couldn’t be any more on the money. This is the Globe doing their thing to show they’re the boss. And the sheep followed…

    Worst case, Mr. O’Brien should have been fired and THEN change the way things are done in the probation department. Changing the rules in the middle of the game is what should be criminal. If O’Brien continued to do wrong AFTER the changes…then you have something.

    Just a bunch a bullies that wore down some pretty good public servants.

    If we continue to allow the media to claim every elected official and public servant is corrupt– sooner or later…they’ll be right. Who in their right mind would want to serve?

    1. Ben:

      Thanks – excellent comment. The probation officer job involves so much that can’t not be quantified. Just because someone has higher marks than another doesn’t mean one is more qualified – there’s so much to the job that involves background experience and ability to relate to people and skill in communication. I particularly like your last sentence – who will serve if everyone is considered corrupt other than the corrupt themselves.

  3. Matt, 100% correct. Once again our federal “justice” department has criminalized civil behavior. First the DOJ (i.e. Wyshak) added language to a statute and said you must hire “the most qualified.” The Statute and Regulations and Policies merely required you hire a “qualified” person and the sole state qualification was a college degree. 2. Every hire in human history is not the most qualified. 3. If the “most qualified” is the standard then no recovering alcoholic, recovering drug addict, housewife out of the job market for a few years, nor recent college grad or law school grad will ever be hired again for a state or federal job because on paper someone else will have more experience or degrees. 4. Merit based also means to hire the most promising and a young recovering alcoholic/drug addict, or young housewife, indeed may be the most meritorious hire for a probation job. 5. The idiot feds don’t want state legislators to recommend people for jobs? So who should recommend people? Fed judges, fed prosecutors, Globe editors, Academics. 6. In fact, probation hired only 40% of persons recommended by legislators, the same percent I suggest as recommended by any other profession. 7. This case is prosecutoral overkill and judicial overkill and Judge Young has blinders on trying to uphold a system of “justice” that most Americans mock. 8. The phony charge often used by Wyshak and the Globe and the DOJ is that an innocent person committed a crime he wasn’t aware of committing and the motive was “to increase his power, his standing, his office’s revenue.” Every state department (I’ve worked in several) has people who petition the Legislature every year for increased funding. The standard the corrupt Feds have created means that every State Department head and hiring head is involved in organized crime and the rackets because they sometimes hire a promising young person (less qualified than the old foggy with two degrees and twenty years twiddling his fingers) AND that Agency or Department COINCIDENTALLY received increased funding from the State. “They did it to enhance their political power” says the corrupt Feds including Wyshak. 7. Remember, the Speaker of the House and other Legislators have had their clean reputations personally ruined by the Boston Office of the DOJ which labeled them Un-Indicted Co Conspirators. 8. Matt, the AMerican people, especially in Boston, should revolt against this gang of imperious usurpers of constitutional freedoms that occupies the Moakley Federal Court House. Imagine the next head of the Mass. Department of Public Health who hires a recovering alcoholic/drug addict recommended by a Legislature; the poor guy never knew he was a Racketeer, but now Wyshak and his crew can single him out and prosecute him. 10. This is all about the abuse of power by a Federal government that has grown insidiously abusive, intimidating we the people, crushing constitutional freedoms and turning civil actions (patronage hiring) into criminal acts. Shame on the FEDS; thrown them all out of office, prosecutors and judges included; their abuses have become monstrous.. Enough. Also boycott the Globe. It stinks to high heaven; always has.

    1. William:

      Excellent post – the job of probation officer as you point out is much more than scoring the highest mark on a test. You ask the right question, who then is to make the recommendations? Don’t people put names of references on their resumes. Will they be immediately disqualified if they list an elected official. If the person checking the resume calls the elected official will that involve some type of criminal conspiracy. As you can see the case is and always has been about patronage which as everyone says is not illegal but some how a guy is going to go to jail for it. It’s really too bad that Judge Young can’t see the forest for the trees and will give O’Brien a big hit rather than throwing the case out. Unfortunately they live in another world in that courthouse.

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