Gants calls off DeLeo leak inquiry

Law enforcement officials tell SJC they didn’t do it

AFTER FEDERAL AND STATE law enforcement officials said they didn’t do it, the Supreme Judicial Court is calling off its inquiry into who leaked to the press the confidential transcript of a deposition of House Speaker Robert DeLeo.

In a May 31 letter to DeLeo, Chief Justice Ralph Gants said he had asked the US Justice Department, the state attorney general’s office, the State Ethics Commission, and the independent counsel who conducted the DeLeo deposition to launch inquiries. He said all of them responded that they found no indication their staffs had improperly disseminated the document to the Boston Globe.

“After considering the responses, the justices have concluded that there would be no likely benefit from any further inquiry, so at this point we deem the matter closed,” Gants wrote to DeLeo.

DeLeo’s office had no immediate comment.

The Speaker had complained to Gants on Oct. 30 that his confidential deposition in connection with an investigation into hiring practices at the Probation Department had been leaked to the Boston Globe and asked the SJC to investigate.  DeLeo claimed the Globe selectively quoted his testimony out of context. “It is quite disturbing that transcripts of testimony that are unavailable to me and subject to an order of impoundment by the court are in the possession of the Boston Globe,” he said in a statement.

The inquiries by the law enforcement agencies in all but one case were fairly superficial, consisting primarily of asking staff members whether they leaked the document. By contrast, the law enforcement agencies, when conducting their own investigations, often subpoena phone records and tap the phones of those they are investigating.

Robin Ashton, counsel to the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility, said in a letter that each attorney with access to the DeLeo deposition was interviewed and each attorney denied providing the transcript to the Boston Globe or directing anyone else to do so. Ashton noted the DeLeo deposition was provided as part of discovery to defense attorneys representing Probation officials who were being prosecuted.

“Because the universe of individuals outside the Department of Justice who had authorized access to Speaker DeLeo’s transcript is so vast, and because the Department of Justice attorneys emphatically and credibly denied providing the transcript to the Boston Globe, the OPR has determined that further investigation of this matter is not likely to lead to a finding that any Department of Justice attorney was the source of the unauthorized disclosure,” Ashton wrote.

In her letter, Ashton noted the US Attorney’s office in Boston used the DeLeo transcript in connection with its investigation of three officials at the Massachusetts Probation Department. She noted that DeLeo was named as an unindicted coconspirator in that case, although he was never formally charged with any wrongdoing. Ashton’s letter was not dated, but it carried a May 18 time stamp, apparently added by the court.

Barbara Dortch-Okara, chair of the State Ethics Commission and a former state judge, said an inquiry was made to staff and commissioners at the agency but did not describe what the inquiry consisted of. “I can assure you that the commissioners and members of our staff have scrupulously complied with the above-mentioned statutes,” she wrote in her Nov. 24 letter.

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Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

Paul Ware, the independent counsel retained by the SJC to investigate hiring practices at the Probation Department, detailed in a Nov. 24 letter the security measures at his Goodwin Procter law firm for restricting access to confidential documents. “While no absolute assurance can be given that the DeLeo transcript could not have been removed and copied by an unauthorized individual, that possibility seems remote,” he said.

The attorney general’s leak investigation appeared to be the most thorough. Judy Zeprun Kalman, the general counsel, said the office interviewed 17 current and former employees, reviewed emails and paper files, and checked access to shared computer drives. “We found no indication that anyone at the AGO gave the transcript of Speaker DeLeo’s sworn testimony to the Globe,” she wrote on Jan. 27.