letters | probation system on trial

Defendant in probation case a casualty of political game

As the attorney for William H. Burke III, former deputy commissioner of probation and a defendant with former commissioner John O’Brien, I write regarding your editorial on the federal indictment arising out of the hiring process (“O’Brien deserves indictment, but real villain is the system,” April 30). Your premise that the Probation Department was a “mess” under O’Brien is unsupported. Patronage hiring occurred before O’Brien’s tenure, overseen by judges, and the professionalism of the department remained consistent. The prosecutors concede that almost all of the hires and promotions in the indictment were qualified applicants. Most are still on the job.

In your fairy tale land there are heroes and villains. If we need a “villain,” how about a prosecutor, a political appointee, scapegoating a retired state worker such as Burke, who may not have received any personal benefit? Is the “scandal” in the hypocrisy of targeting powerless bureaucrats while letting the powerful political leaders come away unscathed?


My client will have a trial, probably in the John Joseph Moakley Courthouse, named after an astute politician renowned for bringing home the proverbial bacon. Most of the court personnel in attendance probably will have had a political godfather helping them along with their career. Fortunately, although Burke can be pilloried by the press and indicted by a prosecutor, he can only be punished after his case is decided by a jury of his peers.

John A. Amabile


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