Lawyers for John J. O’Brien, the former head of the state’s Probation Department who resigned in 2010 amid an investigation into rigged hiring practices, told a federal judge Monday that they will argue at his high-profile trial that he did nothing illegal, but only engaged in patronage.
The lawyers made the claim in federal court in Boston Monday in the latest of several last-minute hearings to determine whether the long-awaited trial, scheduled for Feb. 25, should be postponed.
Lawyers for O’Brien and two codefendants argue they have only begun to delve into recently obtained state documents that show extensive patronage within the Massachusetts trial court system, which they said support their argument O’Brien was doing things that are widely accepted.
“There is this type of top-down hiring process, starting with the appointment of judges and going down to the janitors in the courtroom,” said John Amabile, an attorney for one of O’Brien’s codefendants, William Burke.
O’Brien and his top deputies, Burke and Elizabeth Tavares, face charges including racketeering for allegedly running a rigged process that hired and promoted candidates who were sponsored by state legislators, while bypassing more qualified ones.
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