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Key witness testifies in trial of ex-probation chief

Former Massachusetts Probation Department official Edward Ryan, recanting earlier testimony, said today that he operated with the understanding that he was helping to secure his boss’s wife a job when he set up a 2005 fundraiser.

“I said there was no connection before,” Ryan said, referring to his 2010 testimony to Paul Ware, an independent counsel probing the department. “There was a connection.”

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The testimony came on the second day of the corruption trial of John J. O’Brien, former head of the department. O’Brien is accused of having his staff turn out probation employees for a fundraiser for then-state treasurer Timothy Cahill in exchange for a job at the Massachusetts Lottery Commission for O’Brien’s wife. The treasurer serves as the chair of the commission.

Granted immunity from prosecution, Ryan testified that he was never told to set up the fundraiser in exchange for a job for Laurie O’Brien, but that he understood it was a tit-for-tat situation.

“I never had that conversation with anyone,” Ryan said. “It was an understanding.”

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O’Brien, who resigned in late 2010, faces five charges of bribery and corruption stemming from his 12 years heading the department.

Ryan is one of two former state employees expected to testify against O’Brien under grants of immunity.

Defense attorneys are expected to use testimony from two lottery commission employees who interviewed Laurie O’Brien for her current job. Their testimony, defense lawyers say, will show there was no connection between her hiring and the fundraiser.

Wesley Lowery can be reached at wesley.lowery@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @WesleyLowery.
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