Will John O’Brien Be Convicted For Not Being A Nice Guy?

DSC_0169The John O’Brien’s trial parade of witnesses continues. You’ve heard the expression where’s the beef; here we have to ask where’s the crime.

Last Friday Gail Garinger a former juvenile court judge testified that she sat for two days on a board that interviewed candidates for probation jobs in the juvenile court system. She characterized the process as a sham. She said she would not go through it again. Apparently her input was not highly welcome because the other members of the three person panel had already been told who were the favored candidates by either O’Brien or one of his deputies who are on trial with him.

Garinger is just another in the long list of witnesses who have testified to date who tell us that much of the hiring in the probation system was done through connections – there were lots of people who got jobs because they had contacts who could put in a “good word” for them with probation commissioner O’Brien. The jury has to sit an listen to this testimony that is really not relevant to any crime. The hiring of people based on connections is not illegal but it doesn’t leave a good taste in anyone’s mouth.

The way the case is reported in the newspapers it appears the prosecutor wants to fill the jurors with horror by continually pointing out that O’Brien was playing favorites. He is not charged with taking any money; the racketeering indictment charges him with mail fraud. The fraud was notifying candidates by U.S. mail who were more qualified that they did not get the jobs. O’Brien faces 20 years in the can for this.

Had O’Brien asked the candidates who did not get the jobs to come back into his office and verbally informed them of this fact, he would not have been charged with that crime. That shows the extent to which the prosecutor had to reach into his bag of tricks to find a crime that O’Brien committed. But you’d never know any of this if you read the media reports on the trial.

Reading these reports you would see over and over again that O’Brien had in place a system where people with political or judicial backing got jobs. It was a pretend system. Panels were set up to interview and rate applicants but those on the panel had little to say in the process as the chosen ones had been picked prior to the interviews.

I know this stinks. I’m aware of its unfairness as anyone else but it isn’t criminal. If it was then all the co-conspirators with O’Brien, that is those politicians and judges who made the recommendations and pushed their own candidates should also have been charged. This is the way things are done in the Commonwealth from the appointment of judges down to the appointment of janitors or custodians.

It is not just in our fair state but throughout the nation. President Obama like all previous presidents appoint the people to ambassadorships and many boards because of their monetary help in getting him elected; U.S. senators and representatives recommend people for judgships down to appointments at the military academies based on friendship and other relations with people who have helped them; judges themselves are always reaching out to others to get their family members or friends a job. It happens in the public sector; it also happens in the private sector.

It happens in hiring coaches in pro football where the NFL had to institute the Rooney Rule to give African-Americans a shot at coaching jobs. It’s the reason behind Affirmative Action where many were shut out because they weren’t part of the grape-vine through which many have found jobs. It’s an endemic problem that until O’Brien was indicted was never criminal.

It is certainly unfair to those who don’t have the connections. When the bright light of day is shined on the practice of patronage many people find it repulsive. When you have federal prosecutors parading up to two months of witnesses telling over and over again the same thing it is clear the goal is to befuddle the jurors; to make them see that the system of patronage is unfair to those without connections; and to convince them something should be done to stop it from continuing.

After a while the jury will turn on the defendants because of their dislike for what they participated in. Its only recourse to show its disgust is to find them guilty because it wants them to be punished. It is a tawdry way to run a prosecution by putting tons of evidence of shoddy actions that are not criminal and seeking to get a conviction by prejudicing the jury against the defendants by feigning outrage at what’s done every day.

By the end of the trial the jury won’t believe O’Brien is a nice guy. They’ll also know that a lot of persons who were qualified for the job didn’t get hired because others had better pull. But it’s not a crime not to be nice nor to do favors for politicians and judges. The only question that remains is will the jury see through the miasma in which the prosecution will envelope O’Brien and recognize his actions though off-putting are not criminal.



4 thoughts on “Will John O’Brien Be Convicted For Not Being A Nice Guy?

  1. Matt,

    I feel compelled to address a couple of your recent posts regarding Commissioner O’Brien. First, however, I want to thank you for having the courage to present a different perspective on all manner of issues on which the local media appear to be in lockstep and unwilling to deviate. With respect to the O’Brien trial, I sense that you are posting your opinion based only upon what you are reading from a biased media and your own good instincts. While your instincts seem to be right on (there is no crime here), you are reiterating testimony that has been misrepresented by the media. For example, Judge Garinger referred to the hiring process as a ‘sham’, primarily because she was required to ask each job applicant a set of standardized questions and she was frustrated that the format did not permit her sufficient latitude in asking follow up questions. Trial Court procedures require a standard set of questions for each candidate (as a result of Union challenges). Judge Garinger was not given the name of a preferred candidate and she scored the candidates as she saw them. Testimony also revealed that the candidates that Judge Garinger scored highest were in fact hired, which has been a recurring (though largely unreported) theme throughout the trial. The evidence has also shown that those candidates for whom the Commissioner expressed an interest have been very well qualified for the job. I have not been to court every day but I have seen enough to know that the media coverage, which has been surprisingly sparse, can be misleading. I wish you had taken the time to visit the O’Brien Trial, I would have enjoyed reading you first-hand account of how this case is playing out. For what it is worth, I predict an acquittal despite the overwhelming power and resources of the Government and the unfavorable odds for defendants in that courthouse.

    Finally, several weeks ago you asked, “what motivated Chris Bulger to go to the courtroom…?” I imagine the question was rhetorical but I may as well give you an answer. I worked with Commissioner O’Brien, Liz Tavares and (to a lesser degree) Bill Burke for over a decade. I know they are not criminals. I know they are not racketeers. I know them to be high quality, professional people who do not deserve what is happening to them. They were dedicated to probation work, they worked very hard at it and were committed to operating an excellent department. That is what I know of these people and neither Paul Ware nor Fred Wyshak have been able to convince me otherwise. I went to the courthouse to demonstrate my support for people I respect and I feel have been severely mistreated. If I thought they would have preferred that I stay away because of my name, I would have done so. As I suspected, however, they have been appreciative of my willingness to demonstrate my support for them by attending the trial on occasion.

    1. Chris:
      Nice to hear from you. I appreciate your kind words. I’m only putting forth my input into the matter and the reason being my disgust at the one-tell-all-the-same story put out by folks in the local media. Having experience in many of these areas and knowledge of some of the matters I knew things were being told in a biased fashion so I could not sit quiet. For what it was worth I decided to tell the story of the matters surrounding these issues from my perspective which I believed was more accurate and informed than others.

      When I’ve noted the local media’s coverage of the O’Brien trial I do so to point out that to date all that has been going into evidence is information about patronage which as you note is not a crime. I don’t quite understand how much of that testimony is relevant to the trial nor why Wyshak insists on putting witness after witness on who keep repeating the same thing. If it is not a crime why has so much time been spent on putting in evidence about it?

      Speaking of Judge Garinger there’s another take on her testimony in the Commonwealth Magazine. http://www.commonwealthmagazine.org/News-and-Features/Online-exclusives/2014/Spring/059-Bad-day-for-OBrien-prosecutors.aspx#.U5hR6Nq9KK2

      Whether Judge Garinger calls it a sham or Ben Wall’s kid Francis Wall embellishes it in his testimony really is not important to me. I expected lots of people to come in and say the system was rigged at times to give people with connections jobs. That’s the way things have operated forever in life, especially in the higher levels of our government like at the White House. Anyone with a smidgen of historical knowledge knew that after a presidential election before the days of the isolation of the presidency job seekers flocked to Washington with letters of recommendations looking for and expecting to get jobs. One of our 19th Century presidents noted that he dreaded the crowds who would come pouring into the White House looking for jobs after his innauguration.

      When you point out some of the candidates were highly qualified even though they had connections I had no doubt about that. In my experience people who came in through connections were often some of the best because they not only wanted to do a good job for themselves but also did not want to make their sponsors look bad. In my younger days I turned down a guy who had connections, let’s call him Mark. Instead I hired Mike who came without any. Mike turned out to be a guy I had to fire. I returned to Mark. He turned out to be a star. Wyshak wants to make patronage into a dirty word which it isn’t.

      I understood why you went into the courtroom which was to show your backing for the people you knew and your knowledge that they were hard working and unfairly targeted; but I guess that I rebel at anything that gives Wyshak a chance to sate his hatred of all things Bulger.

      I’m sure O’Brien and Taveres appreciated your support. Wyshak’s mentioning of your name to the jury most likely passed by unnoticed by most jurors who probably have no idea what Wyshak was getting at in identifying you. Perhaps in retrospect I should not have asked the question of why you went there and not have been bothered by Wyshak’s actions.

      As to attending the trial that was impossible. After last summer in Boston the boss put down her foot and insisted I stay home and do the yard work. I’ve read the trial is expected to go into August and I would have missed the summer. I hope I can get in there for a day or two when the grass is cut and the bushes are trimmed and the tomatoes are staked and the garden weeded.

      With respect to your prediction I hope you are right. I tried to point out in my post that even though O’Brien and company have not committed any crimes the jury might not like it that he was involved in patronage and seek to punish him and the only way to do that is to throw a guilty or two his way. You never know what is going on in the minds of a jury. In the best of world’s Young would direct a verdict to all of the charges but I expect he will to some of them.

      I hope you are well. You must have had many sleepless nights knowing Wyshak would probably have given a lot to have you in the defendant’s chair so he could scream out your name over and over. You must be above all suspicion like Caesar’s wife that he wasn’t able to bring that about.

      We can only hope that the tide turns and the truth prevails over the long term and that newspaper sponsored prosecutions like this become a thing of the past and that we look back upon these days as we do the witch trials. My best to everyone and don’t let them get you down or dwell too much on these things. From what I understand you have a lot of good friends and support so stay the course and if you venture back into the courtroom I promise not to mention it again.

    1. Pam:

      Thanks for the vote. I’m bothered by what you pointed out that Judge Young continually says patronage is not a crime but he has continually let in evidence of patronage throughout the trial. Might he be talking out of both sides of his mouth? I’m not so sure O’Brien will be acquitted because the jury might think a little patroage is all right but a lot is not and want to throw a guilty or two at O’Brien just to show they did not like the way he operated. I would be delighted if you were right about your belief. Also, thanks for the reference to the Commonweath Magazine. It’s coverage is a lot better than the Globe’s.

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