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Corruption trial of ex-probation chief O’Brien begins

Former state probation commissioner John J. O'Brien appeared at his trial at Suffolk Superior Court in Boston on Thursday.

Wendy Maeda/Globe Staff

Former state probation commissioner John J. O'Brien appeared at his trial at Suffolk Superior Court in Boston on Thursday.

Former Massachusetts Probation Department head John J. O’Brien used his influence to turn out attendees for a political fundraiser for then-Treasurer Timothy Cahill in exchange for a job for his wife, a prosecutor said today in opening statements in O’Brien’s corruption trial.

Wendy Maeda/Globe Staff

Assistant attorney general Peter A. Mullin presented his opening remarks.

Defense attorneys for O’Brien, who faces five charges of bribery and corruption, insisted that his wife, Laurie, received her job with the Massachusetts Lottery Commission, which is chaired by the treasurer, without her husband’s involvement.

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O’Brien is charged in Suffolk Superior Court in connection with a June 23, 2005 fundraiser. The event, which was attended by many Probation Department employees, occurred while O’Brien’s wife was applying for a Lottery job.

“We’re not alleging that Laurie O’Brien was unqualified for the job,” said Peter Mullin, assistant attorney general, who is prosecuting the case. “We’re alleging that she got the job through her husband’s illegal means.”

Prosecutors accused O’Brien of working with four other state employees to hatch the plan to produce attendees for the fundraiser in exchange for the job.

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They said they would rely heavily on the testimony of two of those men — Edward Ryan and Fran Wall — to prove that the fundraiser was a coordinated plan.

Defense attorneys said both men are only testifying against O’Brien to avoid charges themselves.

“Not only is Jack O’Brien not guilty if participating in such a conspiracy,” defense attorney Paul Flavin said. “Such a conspiracy didn’t happen.”

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