Deliberations finished for day in probation trial

John J. O'Brien left the courthouse earlier in this lengthy trial.
Dina Rudick/Globe Staff
John J. O'Brien left the courthouse earlier in this lengthy trial.

Jurors in the corruption trial of former Probation Department chief John J. O’Brien spent eight hours today deliberating before being sent home by US District Court Judge William G. Young.

The first full day of deliberations in the closely-watched trial in US District Court in Boston ended around 5 p.m.

The trial has covered 35 days of testimony, 60 witnesses, and more than 207 exhibits. A 10-page verdict slip for O’Brien and his codefendants lists charges of mail fraud, racketeering, and racketeering conspiracy.


O’Brien, the commissioner from 1998 to 2010, and top deputies Elizabeth Tavares and William Burke III face accusations that they ran the Probation Department like a criminal enterprise, handing out jobs to the friends of state legislators.

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In exchange, prosecutors alleged, legislative leaders protected O’Brien’s budget and regularly gave him spending increases, creating more jobs. Prosecutors said O’Brien also sought legislation that would have expanded his powers and boosted his pension, though the legislation was never passed.

In closing arguments on Tuesday, defense attorneys ridiculed the government’s case and criticized US Attorney Carmen Ortiz’s office for trying to turn routine Beacon Hill patronage into a crime.

“This is a mudslinging operation, this is throw-everything-but-the-kitchen-sink against these people and see if you can fool the jury into thinking this . . . amounts to a criminal offense,” defense attorney John Amabile told jurors.

But Assistant US Attorney Karin M. Bell argued that the case boiled down to corruption, that the defendants had committed “fraud against the Trial Court . . . fraud against the Commonwealth.”


“Whatever you think of it, it’s not patronage,” Bell told jurors. “It is fraud and bribery, and fraud and bribery are not business as usual in Massachusetts.”

For four hours Tuesday, both prosecutors and defense lawyers made passionate final arguments to the jury, laden with accusations of corruption, political influence, scapegoating, and coverups. There were loud accusations of government overreach, quiet pleas for common sense, and even references to Tom Brady and Bob Dylan, The Globe reported today.

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

Milton J. Valencia can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @miltonvalencia.