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Judge selects jury in Probation Department trial

A jury has been selected in the much-anticipated federal trial involving the state Probation Department scandal.

US District Court Judge William G. Young today selected 9 women and 7 men to serve on the jury. Four of them will ultimately be alternates, though they do not know it. Opening statements are slated for Thursday in the trial, which could last two months.

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The case alleges that John O’Brien, the former probation commissioner, and his top deputies, Elizabeth Tavares and William Burke III, ran their office like a criminal enterprise, giving jobs to the friends and family of state legislators in exchange for increases in their budgets, helping to build their political power.

Defense lawyers have argued it was nothing but political patronage. But prosecutors have argued that O’Brien and his deputies engaged in fraud by creating a bogus hiring system to cover up their crimes. They face up to 20 years in prison on some charges, including racketeering and mail fraud.

The case is based in large part on a Globe Spotlight series in 2010, and it has attracted much media attention since then. Defense lawyers want to call a who’s who of witnesses, including prominent legislators and judges, in an attempt to show that patronage was common on Beacon Hill.

The selection of the 16 jurors came after 155 prospective jurors filled out a questionnaire on Monday intended to screen out those with any biases. Prosecutors and defense attorneys eliminated some jurors, and Young interviewed jurors in person today before selecting the final group.

Young warned the jurors that they should not research the case or talk about it with others in person, or on social media.

“Keep your minds suspended. The trial is going to take a while,” he said. “All the evidence that is appropriate to hear, you’re going to hear in this courtroom.”

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