US prosecutors look to resurrect City Hall indictment in Boston Calling case
Prosecutors have appealed a federal court ruling that led to the dismissal of extortion charges against two City Hall aides, an attempt to breathe new life into the controversial case.
The appeal, filed in court Friday, argues that US District Judge Leo T. Sorokin misinterpreted federal extortion laws, creating a legal framework that would have made it impossible for prosecutors to prove their case against Kenneth Brissette, the city’s tourism chief, and Timothy Sullivan, head of intergovernmental affairs.
Both men were charged in 2016 with extortion for allegedly forcing organizers of the popular Boston Calling music festival into hiring union members, under the threat they would lose their permits — and millions of dollars in revenue from the show.
On the eve of the trial in March, Sorokin said he would instruct jurors that they would need to find that Brissette and Sullivan personally benefited from the threat — a standard that prosecutors said they could not meet, and also said they did not have to.
Prosecutors argued that it is still a crime for a third party to make threats, and they alleged that the aides were acting in the interests of Mayor Martin J. Walsh, a former union leader. Walsh has said he had no connection to the case.
Sorokin dismissed the case once prosecutors declared that they could not meet the judge’s standard. Prosecutors had argued that the standard Sorokin set would jeopardize future cases brought under the Hobbs Act, the federal law that forbids extortion.
“The district court erred in dismissing the indictment based on its erroneous view that the Hobbs Act required proof of a personal benefit to the defendants,” the prosecutors wrote in the appeal.
Sorokin argued at the time that prosecutors were relying on a decades-old court decision to interpret the law, and he pointed out that the US Supreme Court has repeatedly warned against taking too broad a view of the Hobbs Act.
Thomas Kiley, one of the lead lawyers in the case, said Friday that he had not yet read the appeal, so he could not comment.
Kiley has argued in recent filings before the appeals court, however, that Sorokin ruled correctly, and that prosecutors have taken too long to appeal.