Two former top aides to John J. O’Brien when he was probation commissioner have been granted immunity from prosecution in exchange for testifying against him in federal and state corruption investigations, a state prosecutor disclosed in court on Tuesday.
Prosecutors for Attorney General Martha Coakley confirmed Tuesday that Edward P. Ryan, who was O’Brien’s legislative liaison, as well as former deputy commissioner Francis M. Wall, are cooperating with the prosecutors. The two men can give prosecutors a firsthand view of the way O’Brien allegedly funneled jobs and promotions to politically connected job candidates.
The two are among a growing number of probation officials and others who have agreed to cooperate with the sweeping investigation. People who have followed the 20-month probe closely say prosecutors have also granted immunity to numerous other witnesses before the state and federal grand juries and may be considering more.
The immunity deal-making, usually conducted in secret, is part of prosecutors’ strategy to build the strongest case against major figures in an agency that US Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz alleged was operated as a criminal enterprise.
“The government does not usually enter into cooperation agreements without some expectation as to the assistance it will get. It is likely that the prosecutors expect to either strengthen existing cases or get information that will lead to new ones,” said Donald K. Stern, who served as US Attorney from 1993 to 2001.
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