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City Hall aides won’t go on trial until after mayoral election

Lane Turner/Globe Staff/File 2016

Timothy Sullivan (left) and Kenneth Brissette were photographed after they were arraigned in July 2016.

By and Globe Staff 

In a boon for the reelection campaign of Mayor Martin J. Walsh, the extortion trial of two top mayoral aides has been scheduled for January, two months after the November election.

US District Judge Leo T. Sorokin set the final conference in the case for Jan. 4, and the trial will commence four days later.

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Federal prosecutors had suggested holding the trial in October, which would have been in the thick of the mayoral campaign. Walsh is being challenged by City Councilor Tito Jackson, and analysts said the timing works in the mayor’s favor.

“This takes the speculation out of the election,” said Michael McCormack, a Boston attorney and former City Council member. “There was always this black cloud as to whether Walsh may be drawn into a trial. And that’s gone. I think the mayor ought to be pretty happy.”

In an interview, Jackson said, “It is unacceptable that the people of Boston will not know whether or not the mayor or his staff was involved in an illegal act before the election. The mayor should let the people of Boston know whether or not he has been to the grand jury. It is unacceptable for him to continue to hide the truth about his role in this case and actions of his staff.”

Walsh has denied any wrongdoing. He would not comment Wednesday.

Lawyers for the defendants, Kenneth Brissette and Timothy Sullivan, had requested a trial date after November. A lawyer for Sullivan has also suggested he may seek to have his own, separate trial, though he has not made that request. Both men remain on paid leave.

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Brissette, the city’s tourism chief, and Sullivan, head of intergovernmental affairs, are accused of using the weight of City Hall to pressure organizers of the Boston Calling music festival to hire union workers in September 2014 under the threat that they would lose their permit for the popular music festival, what would have been a $3 million loss.

Walsh, a former labor leader who was elected with union support, took office in 2014, the first year the music festival was forced to hire union workers. The festival had been held in Boston three times before.

Lawyers for Sullivan and Brissette argue that nothing they did was illegal, saying they had the right to advocate for better paying jobs on behalf of constituents. Prosecutors argue that they used the threat of financial losses to force a company to hire workers it did not want to hire, and said that Brissette and Sullivan believed they were acting in the mayor’s interests when they made the demand.

Last week, Sorokin rejected a request by defense lawyers to dismiss the case.


Milton J Valencia can be reached at milton.valencia@globe.com
Follow him on Twitter @miltonvalencia.