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Prosecutors’ use of DeLeo ‘unusual,’ Patrick says

Massachusetts House Speaker Robert DeLeo.

Wendy Maeda/Globe staff

Massachusetts House Speaker Robert DeLeo.

Governor Deval Patrick added his voice Wednesday to rising skepticism among lawmakers about federal prosecutors’ treatment of Speaker Robert A. DeLeo during the trial of three former Probation Department officials, expressing support for the House leader as jurors deliberated on the case at the federal courthouse in Boston.

Patrick, who called himself “an ally of the speaker’s,” said he found US Attorney Carmen Ortiz’s office decision to name DeLeo as an unindicted co-conspirator in a Probation Department hiring scam, without calling DeLeo as a witness, “odd.”

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“I am deeply troubled by the allegations in the case,” he told reporters after testifying at an unrelated hearing.

“But, you know, the people I talk to — my wife, many, many others I talk to — find it just odd that, in a system where you normally get to confront, the people who are making the charges would essentially be charging him without him being in the courtroom,” he said. Patrick’s wife, Diane, is a co-managing partner at the Ropes & Gray law firm’s Boston office.

Related: Probation case focus on lawmakers may backfire

Patrick had earlier Wednesday called the prosecution’s approach “very, very unusual,” according to the State House News Service.

“Leaving aside the merits of the case and the charges, as a lawyer it seems to me unusual, if not unfair to draw, you know, someone into a trial without giving them an opportunity to defend themselves and answer the accusers,” Patrick said, according to the wire service.

The governor’s remarks came on the heels of House lawmakers re-affirming their backing of DeLeo, saying he has been unfairly besmirched as prosecutors labeled him a conspirator and someone who traded jobs for votes.

DeLeo, who has pushed back against the prosecution in escalating fashion, again defended himself on Wednesday and offered a knock on prosecutors, who have accused him of participating in a legislative bribery scheme.

“I just wanted to answer a couple of things in terms of actual facts, which haven’t seemed to spew too often from the mouth of the US attorney,” he told reporters Wednesday.

DeLeo, who has not been charged in the case, reiterated his position that no one got a job in exchange for budgetary protection, and said he didn’t trade jobs for votes in his bid to be speaker.

“They state that I had given out probation jobs for votes for speaker, yet they have not had one state representative — not one state representative! — who has stated that to be true,” he said, later adding that he was frustrated and angry.

Closing arguments in the trial of former Probation commissioner John J. O’Brien and top deputies Elizabeth Tavares and William Burke III wrapped up Tuesday, with prosecutors trying to convince jurors that the three former top probation officials had set up a fraudulent hiring scheme and bribed lawmakers in exchange for favors such as increased funding.

Jurors spent about eight hours in deliberations Wednesday.

Asked what he thought the jury would decide, DeLeo declined take a guess, but said he believed there are “plenty of holes” in the prosecution’s case.

Related coverage:

Spotlight Report: Patronage in the Probation Department

Farragher: Favoritism hurtled to a corrupt extreme

House colleagues say speaker system branded unfairly

Jury hears of power play in probation case

Robert DeLeo in glare at Probation hiring trial

Yvonne Abraham: Grimy politics on display at probation trial

Probation officials practiced simple patronage, lawyer says

Probation case focus on lawmakers may backfire

O’Brien declines to testify as prosecution rests

DeLeo denies trading favors for probation jobs

Ex-judge grilled on probation hiring

Jim O’Sullivan can be reached at Jim.OSullivan@globe.com.
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