Mayor Martin J. Walsh on Tuesday defended former Probation Commissioner John J. O’Brien, saying he did not believe O’Brien was guilty of rigging the hiring process to help state legislators land jobs for their friends and supporters over more qualified candidates.
“I don’t think so,” Walsh, a former state lawmaker, said when asked on WGBH-FM if he believes O’Brien should have been found guilty by a federal jury last week. “I just think he went to work every single day and, somehow, the system got the better of him,” Walsh said.
The mayor acknowledged he did not “get all the facts of the case,” but said he and other legislators were expected to write letters of recommendation for their constituents.
Walsh’s comments echoed a sentiment among many House and Senate members on Beacon Hill, who have said they consider job placements one of their basic duties as legislators.
Last week, a federal jury found O’Brien guilty of four counts of mail fraud, racketeering, and racketeering conspiracy for running the Probation Department like a criminal enterprise, handing out jobs to the politically powerful for his own personal benefit. The jury also convicted two of O’Brien’s former top deputies for participating in the criminal scheme.