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Former police commissioner testifies in Boston Calling case

Former Boston police commissioner William Evans said he had “no clue” about tensions between the Boston Calling music festival’s promoters and unions.
Former Boston police commissioner William Evans said he had “no clue” about tensions between the Boston Calling music festival’s promoters and unions.(David L. Ryan/Globe Staff/File)

In 2014, when Crash Line Productions was trying to set up its second music festival of the year on City Hall Plaza, Boston Police Commissioner William Evans wasn’t aware of the tensions bubbling between the company and the stagehands union that wanted jobs at the concert, he testified Monday.

“I had no clue that was even going on,” Evans said via video in federal court as testimony wrapped up in the extortion trial of two City Hall aides accused of strong-arming Crash Line into hiring members of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 11 for the Boston Calling festival.

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“I would never have anything to do with that,” said Evans, who was called to testify by lawyers for the defendants, Kenneth Brissette and Timothy Sullivan. “That’s way out of my league. I had no clue who they were hiring or who they weren’t hiring.”

Evans said all he cared about that summer was the safety of concertgoers at the popular festival, which motivated him to push back against Crash Line’s plans at an acrimonious meeting at Boston police headquarters in August 2014, about a week before the festival.

Prosecutors have described the Crash Line founders, Brian Appel and Michael Snow, as victims of Brissette and Sullivan, who exploited the promoters’ fear that the city might shut down the concert to force them into hiring nine union workers just days before the festival.

But Evans depicted a greedy concert promoter who seemed more concerned with selling alcohol to maximize profits than working with police to make sure the festival was safe.

During the meeting, Appel complained that without longer hours, the concert would not be able to go on, Evans testified. “I remember telling him, ‘If you have to make your money off alcohol, maybe you shouldn’t have the event,’ ” Evans said.

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Prosecutors have insinuated that police changed the serving hours allowed under the company’s liquor license and imposed more restrictions as part of a plan to pressure Snow and Appel.

Evans was one of two witnesses the defense called Monday to make their case that the police department’s concerns were completely independent of the conversations city officials were having about the union.

Evans said Appel wanted to serve alcohol for 11 hours without beer pens, which force concertgoers to stay under tents while they’re drinking. Evans said he wanted the beer pens and the hours curbed significantly, but Appel was intractable.

“This kid wasn’t being flexible,” Evans said. “He sort of felt entitled: ‘I’m going to get this one way or the other.’ ”

Evans’s testimony was shown on monitors to the jury. He was recorded July 31 at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, where he is recovering from a hip injury that he sustained when he fell during a recent run in Toronto.

Evans, who was appointed commissioner by Mayor Thomas M. Menino in 2013, is known as an avid runner. He left the department in 2018 to take over security at Boston College.

Evans said he had never met Sullivan, the city’s head of intergovernmental affairs, but spoke regularly with Brissette in the summer of 2014 in Brissette’s capacity as director of tourism. Brissette had nothing to do with the concert’s liquor license, Evans said.

“Were you part of any agreement to try and slow down or hinder or [stop] the issuance of the liquor license?” Brissette’s lawyer, William Kettlewell, asked.

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“Absolutely not,” Evans said.

Evans said he called the meeting with Crash Line after one of his captains told him about excessive drinking and drinking by minors at the May 2014 event. Defense attorneys had said during their openings that a sexual assault took place. Police have refused to confirm whether a sexual assault occurred at the festival, citing the confidentiality of the alleged victim.

On Aug 4, 2014, Boston Police Captain Kenneth Fong, whose district covered City Hall Plaza, sent Evans an e-mail about a 22-year-old woman who reported a sexual assault during the event, according to internal e-mails the Globe received following a public documents request.

Evans testified after Patricia Malone, a lawyer who was head of the consumer affairs and licensing office in 2014. Malone testified that neither Brissette nor Sullivan had any control over the entertainment license Crash Line eventually received.

Prosecutors tried to undermine her testimony by citing a statement she made to federal investigators in 2016 when they were looking into the alleged actions of Brissette and Sullivan.

Assistant US Attorney Laura Kaplan asked if Malone recalled telling agents that Brissette had a lot of political power and that he, along with other department heads, could slow down permits if they wanted.

“No, I do not,” Malone replied.

“Did you ever tell an applicant they needed to hire city labor?” Kaplan asked.

“Never,” she said. “That wasn’t my job.”

The jury is expected to begin its deliberations on Tuesday after closing arguments by prosecutors and defense lawyers.

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Maria Cramer can be reached at mcramer@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @globem
cramer.