After federal prosecutors described House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo as part of a quid pro quo scheme in the ongoing probation trial this week, some might have expected him and his lieutenants to vigorously refute the allegations.
But on Beacon Hill, where loyalty rules and members are loath to upset the powerful speaker, the reaction was exactly the opposite: DeLeo said nothing, and his deputies dodged reporters.
On Tuesday, a day after federal prosecutors said they would introduce evidence showing probation officials gave jobs to DeLeo’s preferred applicants in return for legislative favors, the speaker remained behind closed doors.
An aide said the Winthrop Democrat was in meetings and would not have any comment.
House members also had little to offer.
“I’m not going to comment,” said Representative David P. Linsky, a member of the speaker’s leadership team, as he cut off further questions and headed into a hearing room.
Representative Benjamin Swan, a Springfield Democrat, said he was not concerned that federal prosecutors had described the speaker as trading jobs for favors.
“I figure if there was something to it, they would probably have him on trial or something,” Swan said.
Representative Paul Donato, a close DeLeo ally, insisted that no one in the House was talking about the allegations.
“I haven't heard any repercussions from any of the members,” he said, adding that DeLeo “has done a terrific job as speaker of the House.”
The issue is particularly sensitive for House members because the three previous speakers have all been ensnared in legal troubles: Charles F. Flaherty pleaded guilty to tax evasion in 1996; Thomas M. Finneran pleaded guilty in 2007 to obstruction of justice for giving false testimony in a redistricting trial; and Salvatore F. DiMasi was convicted in 2011 on federal corruption charges and is serving eight years in prison.
In the past, DeLeo has denied ever having an agreement with the former probation commissioner, John J. O’Brien, to trade jobs for favors. He has said that he did nothing wrong and has not been charged as part of the probation case.
Donato said it was not for him to consider whether the speaker might have played a role in a patronage-for-favors scheme. “Let a jury figure that out,” he said.Levenson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @mlevenson.