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Judge won’t dismiss charges in Walsh aides extortion case

Lane Turner/Globe Staff

In an 11-page order, a US District Court judge ruled that the criminal case against the Kenneth Brissette (left) and Timothy Sullivan should proceed.

By and Globe Staff 

A federal judge refused Tuesday to throw out extortion and conspiracy charges against two top aides to Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh for allegedly pressuring the Boston Calling music festival to hire union workers in 2014.

US District Court Judge Leo T. Sorokin ruled in an 11-page order that the criminal case against Kenneth Brissette and Timothy Sullivan should proceed, rejecting defense claims their constitutional rights were being violated by prosecutors.

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“None of the defendants’ arguments merit the extraordinary remedy of dismissal,” Sorokin wrote, adding “the issues presented by the defendants’ motion are not purely legal ones capable of resolution without a trial on the merits.’’

Sorokin noted that Brissette and Sullivan faced a “heavy burden” to have the case thrown out. Dismissing an indictment, Sorokin wrote, citing case law, “directly encroaches upon the fundamental role of the grand jury.”

Sullivan’s attorney, Thomas R. Kiley, expressed displeasure with the ruling and stood by the arguments for dismissal.

“We’re disappointed,” Kiley said, “but fully committed to defending these completely innocent actions.”

The ruling came on the day Walsh began gathering signatures to secure his name on the ballot for reelection. It means the criminal case will continue to play out as Walsh tries to persuade voters to give him a second term.

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Walsh’s chief communications officer, Laura K. Oggeri, declined to comment. Brissette’s attorney, William H. Kettlewell, did not immediately respond for comment.

Brissette, the city’s tourism head, and Sullivan, head of intergovernmental affairs, retain their jobs but are on paid administrative leave. They had argued in court papers they committed no crime when they asked the Boston Calling music festival to pay workers fair wages.

But federal prosecutors argued in the recent filings that Brissette and Sullivan went too far when they used the power of their positions to threaten concert organizers they could lose permits — and $3 million in revenue from the music festival, and the possibility of hosting future concerts — if they failed to hire union workers.

Sorokin’s ruling offered a point-by-point rebuttal of Brissette’s and Sullivan’s argument that the case should be thrown out. The ruling noted, for example, that the defense contended “it is undisputed that neither defendant sought or acquired any money in the course of this alleged extortion.”

The judge stated prosecutors have alleged the extortion was for wages and benefits for union members.


Andrew Ryan can be reached at acryan@globe.com.
John R Ellement can be reached at ellement@globe.com