John O’Brien May Have Been Better Off In The Mafia:

justice weepsCorrection: O’Brien sentencing is today. Yesterday I said it was going to happen then but I erred. But another day gives me a chance for another comment on the matter.

I missed this but last Thursday in preparation for his sentencing today Judge Young made the following pronouncements. He said: “Mr. O’Brien was the organizer and leader of criminal activity and abused a position of public trust.” He added that O’Brien was guilty of “massive corruption.”

By the way this gang that O’Brien organized consisted of two other people in the probation department both of whom had no criminal records. One was a woman and the other a guy now in his seventies. So the leader that Judge Young was talking about had two followers.

The concept of being a leader usually connotes a bigger following than that. The lowest leadership position I’ve known prior to this was a leader of a Marine fire team but he had three people following him. I’ve never heard of someone being a leader of so few people. When I think leader and organizer I think of someone like a Mafia boss not someone like Grouch Marx.

The reason for making O’Brien into a leader and organizer is so that Judge Young can give O’Brien an enhanced sentence of up to two more years than that provided by the sentencing guidelines. According to them O’Brien should get three years but Young can now almost double it to almost six.  Of course the prosecutors having pulled off this scam where they have turned patronage into a crime want him to do about six years because he showed no remorse. I’m not quite sure how he’d do that other than pleading guilty but he couldn’t do that because he doesn’t believe he committed a crime.

You have to remember there was no demonstrable harm caused by O’Brien’s actions. No one was murdered or extorted. No one had any money stolen from them or lost by fraud. No drugs were distributed. There was no showing that O’Brien’s use of patronage damaged the work of the probation department. He hired some people who the federal prosecutors think he shouldn’t. They had better candidates in mind. But there was no showing that had O’Brien hired who the prosecutors wanted things would have been better.

O’Brien didn’t put a penny in his pocket. The only money involved was that O’Brien got a bigger budget. That allowed him to put more probation officers to work. The results showed a drastic decline in crime under his leadership. In fact, by any metric the probation department did fine while he was in charge.

When Judge Young suggests as another reason for him sentencing O’Brien to five years or more that there was “massive corruption” he is just spouting nonsense. This was a simple case of patronage played out on a larger scale. If patronage is not a crime then there was no corruption.

We’ve seen this before where the judges play games by making findings such as Judge Young did in order to punish people beyond the sentencing guidelines who really don’t deserve it. In the case of Catherine Greig, the judge in her case found two additional factors to add on to her sentence so that she received at least four additional years more than the guidelines called for.  She got 8 years.

Both O’Brien and Greig had one thing in common. Prior to their convictions in federal court neither one had ever been convicted of another crime during their prior fifty plus years of life. Now tell me something isn’t wrong when these people are going to do more time in prison than people who have been engaged in murders or who are members of the Mafia and are life-long criminals.

Kevin Weeks who was Whitey’s right hand man did five years for five murders. Sure he cooperated but he still lived a life of crime and was facing twenty or more years in prison on other charges aside from the murders that involved drug dealings and extortions.

But it gets worse. I really does:

Here are some of the Mafia leaders and their sentences meted out in the federal courts recently. It appears the federal courts save their outrage for those who live crime free lives while pandering to those in the Mafia.

Luigi “Louie” Manocchio, an admitted former boss and underboss of the New England Mafia was sentenced to 66 months in federal prison for his leadership of and participation in a racketeering and extortion conspiracy.

Raymond R. “Scarface” Jenkins, an admitted associate of the Mafia was sentenced to 37 months in prison for his admitted participation in a conspiracy to extort $25,000 from a Rhode Island individual and his wife.

Anthony L. Dinunzio, the acting leader of the New England Mafia, was sentenced to serve 78 months in federal prison for his role in a racketeering conspiracy to extort protection payments from adult entertainment businesses in Rhode Island. Under the agreement, prosecutors said they would recommend a sentence in the range of just over five years to up to 6 ½ years.

Alfred “Chippy” Scivola, Jr., 71, of Johnston, R.I., an admitted member of the New England Mafia was sentenced in U.S. District Court in Providence today to 46 months in federal prison for his participation in a racketeering and extortion conspiracy

Carmen “The Cheeseman” DiNunzio, reputed former underboss of the New England Mafia charged in federal court for bribery and in the state court for extortion. A life-long criminal got only six years.

I’m sure you get the point. There’s certainly something topsy-turvy in our Boston federal court that their ire is so misplaced. Had O’Brien not been Irish but Italian he may have taken another road and been better off.



  1. What would Martha Coakley do? … Well we know what she did. She prosecuted O’Brien. If she had been successful in that ” witch ” burning, the Feds never would have taken a shot. Yet, Matt, you continually extolled her virtues leading up to election, and in your Globe/Fed Cabal , and I am not saying there is not one , against in this case O’Brien, her name is never mentioned by you. But that’s politics after all old chum. It’s a dirty, deceitful, hypocritical game of sucking up to those lumps of State House lobby fodder that you think will act to your benefit, and ignoring their faults. Man is a political animal. This is human nature. Ultimately O’Brien was done in by politics ; Martha Coakley’s politics. He was just more grist to the mill of her overweening and viciously self-interested careerism. Sure , Globe did their usual hypocritical highbrow moral shtick, but she took the caper to court. She screwed over Cahill, ditto for O’Brien, and tried to quash her own IG:s , Sullivan’s , DiMasi investigation, because Sal DiMasi controlled her budget. So enough faux outrage from any quarter. Politics makes for strange bedfellows, and Martha is not so easily put to sleep . 🙂

  2. In North Korea a person is brought before a judge for anti state activities. He is sentenced to the Gulag on the testimony of a cop and the recommendation of a prosecutor. Who is the victim and who are the criminals? The judge, prosecutor and cops are the criminals. The person sentenced is the victim. O’Brien and the Probation officials are the victims in this matter. The judge, prosecutors and FBI are the criminals. It may take the public some time to realize this but they probably will eventually. No crime whatsoever was committed by the Probation workers. If they had worked in the Soviet Union they would have been found to have sluggish schizophrenia and been sent to Siberia. The Moakley courthouse is acting in a Stalinesque fashion. 2. Writing a letter of recommendation is Constitutionally protected free speech. Any public official who acts under the color of law to prevent probation workers or state politicians from engaging in this protected activity has violated their civil and Constitutional rights. The Globe has conspired to violate their rights and should be held accountable. The new Congress should investigate this wrongdoing. They should insist a Special Prosecutor is appointed to prevent this flagrant abuse reoccurring. He could indict every judge who hired a law clerk that wasn’t the best qualified. Live by the sword die by the sword. If this case were reviewed by the USSC it would take about five minutes to reverse it.

    • NC:

      1. How much time do you think Young will give O’Brien for his massive corruption. The over/under is five and I played the over. It’s really bad the way rhetoric is used to make nothing into something. Young’s been on the bench too long and has become like those North Korean dictators who can do whatever they decide to do with no checks and balances. Maybe at one time the idea of lifetime tenure for judges made sense but now it doesn’t. He’s been a judge for 36 years, 29 years on the federal bench. He’s soon going to be on the federal payroll longer than J.Edgar Hoover.

      2. Not only writing a letter but making a call to someone on behalf of someone else is constitutionally protected. Imagine the quid pro quo the government alleged for O’Brien getting people jobs was that he got an increase in his budget. His bigger budget makes him able to do a better job and for that he’s a racketeer. The Globe’s power is enormous when you look at it because it has the power to praise or condemn and thus people are obsequious before it.

      3. Special prosecutors are a joke. We just need regular prosecutors to do their jobs. I see that Durham the guy who tried Connolly cleared all the CIA guys from torture allegations and now it turns out he didn’t interview many of the victims who say they were tortured. He’s an example of a special prosecutor. The only one’s who seem to do anything are those on one side of the political spectrum who want to hurt someone on the other side.

      4. I agree that if O’Brien can get to the Supreme Court his case would be thrown out. I’m not sure it would happen in the court of appeals in the First Circuit since that serves as a rubber stamp for the district court – see Greig and Connolly decisions.

  3. On the same line as the double standard, here’s something to look at Matt:

    There’s a gym teacher and coach in Duxbury who was fired by a superintendent. The allegations were that the coach used too much force in the weight room before football practice. The tape of the incident that would have answered a lot of questions is missing. The entire community is divided– mainly at the way the superintendent handled the whole process. There were 40-something people in the weight room when the incident occurred.

    Out of those 40-plus people– three were interviewed by the Superintendent. The DCF was called in. They conducted an investigation and used the reports supplied to them by the superintendent. They reaffirmed his findings without any further investigation. (

    Children died in DCF care and it took Governor Patrick MONTHS to do the right thing and fire the commissioner. When he finally DID accept her resignation– he didn’t accept it without throwing a few pot shots at the critics.

    This coach/teacher made a questionable call in judgment and has had his life turned upside down as a result. One incident in an otherwise sparkling record. An incident that shouldn’t have resulted in anything more than a letter in his file…and his life is changed forever because of an overzealous superintendent who was afraid of the media.

    Just not right. It’s already back page news that the Patriot Ledger has taken no interest in. It is sad when an overreaction (by the superintendent) isn’t even considered or talked about by the press…to get the true story…yet, the governor can go weeks/months with the DCF and indictments and prosecution isn’t even considered.

    Sick, sad world.

    • Ben:

      Thanks for the comment. I read about the incident but did not go into it as deeply as you have done. School superintendents are not known to be a particularly courageous group of people. I don’t know whether Ben Tantillo is of that group or not. I hope the fired coach has some recourse. I don’t think the superintendent’s power is such that it can’t be reviewed. It has been a long time since I practiced law that involve public schools so I have not kept up. Again, thanks.

  4. To me, what may bug me most is you can’t even have a discussion on this…or any other sensitive subject. Again, I hold the media at fault here.

    Mayor Walsh was ripped apart for his comments on O’Brien. He said it was “bizarre” and that is was a “sad day for Massachusetts” when he was convicted. He’s 100% right and my respect for him only grew when he didn’t back off those statements.

    The problem is, the world isn’t filled with many Marty Walsh’s. If you step out of line and opine about something like this and call it for what it really is– you are beaten until you back off.

    To me, the question the media should be asking about is not, “Why haven’t you gone after the elected officials?” it should be (if patronage IS what it’s really all about), “Why stop at Probation? When will you review the MBTA? The turnpike? The court system…”

    Thanks to this case, elected officials aren’t spooked or on alert they shouldn’t conduct business like this anymore…they’re running scared to do their job. People who rely on recommendations to get in to college or get jobs in the private sector or otherwise will have to look elsewhere for help…and, as much as it sickens me to defend these elected officials– who can blame them?

    Ortiz can’t pick and choose who to prosecute (attacking O’Brien and Probation; not going after other agencies) if patronage is what they are looking to attack…and, if you do, the Globe should not defend why it’s rampant in Probation and not rampant anywhere else in Municipal government. That’s preposterous.

    • Ben:

      True, it is difficult having a discussion because most people read the paper and conclude from that rather than doing any independent analysis. It’s nice to see Marty Walsh’s courage. I wished he’d have stood for Billy Bulger and let them name the Southie library after him.

      The problem with going beyond O’Brien is that you’d have to start at the president who gives ambassador jobs to big contributors and bundlers and has filled many other jobs based on who has supported him. Like O’Brien he gets calls from Senators and Reps who are pushing one person or the other and he picks someone. I’m sure we could always find a more competent person especially when we see some of the ambassador appointments involve people who never have been to the country to which they are sent.

      The O’Brien case will change nothing. Patronage will still continue because it is how things have been done by people forever. I’d expect if the case is appealed there is a good chance it may be reversed. By then, unless Judge Yong stays the execution of the sentence, O’Brien will be doing his time.