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Probation trial may feature key elected figures

Witness lists are a who’s who in state

Prosecutors and defense lawyers have listed a slew of current and former elected officials who may be called as witnesses in the upcoming corruption trial of former probation commissioner John J. O’Brien and two of his top aides, according to court papers filed Tuesday.

O’Brien and his codefendants are accused of running a rigged hiring system that favored candidates sponsored by state legislators over more qualified ones, in exchange for favorable budget appropriations.

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Many of the most intriguing names on the potential witness lists came from defense lawyers, who say their clients did nothing illegal and merely engaged in political patronage.

Defense attorneys indicated they may call Mayor Martin J. Walsh of Boston, House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo, and Senate President Therese Murray, among many others.

“As of now, the mayor has not received any formal notification in regards to appearing as a witness in this trial,” Kate Norton, a spokeswoman for Walsh, said in a statement. She declined to comment further.

Aides to Murray and DeLeo did not respond to requests for comment.

Defense lawyers also said they may call Attorney General Martha Coakley, whose office prosecuted O’Brien last year in an unrelated corruption case. He was acquitted in that case.

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A spokesman for Coakley declined to comment Tuesday night.

In addition, defense counsel listed several members of the state’s congressional delegation, including Senator Edward J. Markey and Representatives Michael Capuano, William Keating, Stephen Lynch, John Tierney, and Richard Neal.

Their press aides either could not be reached Tuesday night or declined to comment.

On the prosecution side, government attorneys indicated they may call former state senator Jack Hart and state Representatives Byron Rushing, Michael Moran, and David Linsky, among others. They also said they may call James Kennedy, a lawyer who has advised DeLeo.

The filings came after US District Court Judge F. Dennis Saylor IV, who is presiding over the case in federal court in Boston, ordered both sides on Monday to submit a preliminary witness list to determine whether Saylor has any ties to witnesses, specifically any judges, lawyers, or public officials.

Saylor had already disclosed that he was a former law partner of one of the original investigators in the case and was friends with the investigators’ assistant, but said the relationships were not enough to force him to step aside.

He is considering a defense request to recuse himself from the trial.

Defense lawyers also listed a number of high-profile former officeholders as potential witnesses, including former House speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi, who is serving an eight-year prison sentence in a separate corruption case.

Sources told the Globe in March 2012 that DiMasi informed a person visiting him in prison that he testified for five hours before a federal grand jury investigating the hiring scandal in the Probation Department.

DiMasi insisted then that he did not provide significant information that prosecutors could use against current or former legislators, said several people at the time who were briefed on DiMasi’s comments.

Also on the defense team’s list is former senator Scott Brown, who lost a reelection battle in 2012 and has moved to New Hampshire, where he is widely viewed to be contemplating another Senate run. Brown did not return a call seeking comment Tuesday.

O’Brien and his two former deputies, Elizabeth Tavares and William H. Burke III, are scheduled to stand trial March 24.

However, defense lawyers asked in a separate filing Tuesday to push the start date back until at least April 28.

Andrea Estes and Milton J. Valencia of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@
globe.com
. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.

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