A Suffolk Superior Court judge has refused to order separate trials for former state probation commissioner John J. O’Brien and his codefendant, ex-Treasury aide Scott S. Campbell — even though lawyers for the men argue a single trial will pit the two against each other.
“The blatant finger pointing by the defendants will deprive O’Brien of his right to a fair trial and contravene the best interests of justice,” wrote O’Brien’s lawyers, Paul Flavin and Brendan Pitts.
O’Brien is accused of organizing a 2005 fund-raiser for former treasurer Timothy P. Cahill to help his wife, Laurie, get a job at the state lottery. Campbell, who was Cahill’s chief of staff, is accused of conspiring to hire Laurie O’Brien and violating campaign finance laws. Cahill was not charged in this case.
Lawyers for O’Brien and Campbell said their clients will each argue that they did not know there was a connection between the fund-raiser and the job offer for Laurie O’Brien. But if such an arrangement existed, the other defendant was responsible, the lawyers will argue.
“If Campbell is forced to trial with O’Brien he is likely to face, in effect, two prosecutors — the assistant attorney general and O’Brien’s counsel — both of whom will seek to pin the blame on Campbell for allegedly connecting Laurie O’Brien’s employment with John O’Brien’s participation in the fund-raiser,” wrote Campbell’s lawyers Charles Rankin and James Sultan.
Judge Judith Fabricant said she may reconsider her ruling, which she issued Dec. 20, if the lawyers give her more information about the evidence to be offered at the trial, which is scheduled to begin April 2.
Earlier this month, Campbell and Cahill were tried in a separate case, also brought by Attorney General Martha Coakley, who alleged they used lottery ads to bolster Cahill’s 2010 gubernatorial campaign. Campbell was acquitted, and the jury could not reach a verdict on the charges against Cahill.
O’Brien, 55, who resigned in late 2010 after an independent counsel found he had committed “pervasive fraud” in hiring and promotion practices during his 10 years running the probation department, is also facing federal racketeering, fraud, and conspiracy charges along with two top aides.
Federal prosecutors allege the three masterminded a sham hiring scheme that appeared legitimate but funneled jobs to friends, relatives, and favored politicians.
A federal grand jury sitting in Worcester continued to hear testimony in the probation case for several months after O’Brien was indicted in March.
Even though the two men will be tried together in the state case on several counts, there could be more than one trial. Campbell is facing three additional charges — unrelated to the Cahill fund-raiser — and those charges must be tried separately.
Campbell, 41, a longtime Cahill loyalist, is also charged with campaign violations during Cahill’s failed independent gubernatorial campaign.
Campbell, who was Cahill’s campaign manager, allegedly gave $500 in cash to three friends or relatives and asked them to write checks in the same amount for Cahill’s campaign.
The scheme, prosecutors allege, allowed donors to exceed the state’s $500 limit.
In addition, there could be a second trial for Campbell and O’Brien on conspiracy charges — which the judge ruled must be tried separately from the other offenses.
Expected to be key witnesses at trial are two former probation officials who have been granted immunity: Edward Ryan and Francis Wall.
Ryan, an aide to O’Brien and longtime friend of Cahill and Campbell, is expected to testify that in May 2005, O’Brien asked him whether there were any suitable jobs for his wife at the lottery.
Ryan agreed to call Campbell, who contacted the human resources director on Laurie O’Brien’s behalf. According to Ryan, Campbell reported back that there might be job opportunities for her and that Cahill “was looking for a fund-raiser.” He wondered if O’Brien would want to be involved.
O’Brien, according to Ryan, said that holding a fund-raiser would be “no problem.”
He then directed Ryan and Wall, who was a deputy commissioner, to work on it. O’Brien told Wall that his wife was getting a job at the lottery and he wanted to show his support and appreciation with a large turnout of probation personnel.
Ryan and Wall organized the party, which raised more than $11,000 for Cahill.
Laurie O’Brien began working at the lottery on Sept. 26, 2005.
Andrea Estes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.