Attorney: Globe column targeted Probation jury

Judge rejects bid to sequester panel

STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE

On the second day of jury deliberations in the probation trial, one of the defense attorneys accused the Boston Globe of an “attempt to manipulate the criminal justice system” by printing a front-page column with a strong take on the allegations.

Jurors began discussions Wednesday aiming to determine whether former Probation Commissioner John O’Brien and two of his former deputies, Elizabeth Tavares and William Burke, criminally rigged the hiring system in the department as part of efforts to curry favor with lawmakers who make decisions about the department’s budget.

“Favoritism hurtled to a corrupt extreme, and deserving workers fell by the wayside,” read the headline to the Wednesday morning column by Thomas Farragher, a new columnist for the Globe who previously led the Spotlight Team that ran an expose in May 2010 leading to O’Brien’s suspension.

Farragher described the Probation Department’s personnel system as “the crack cocaine of patronage” and described sitting at the kitchen table of Karen Jackson, who was passed over for a relative by marriage of a former state representative, and reported what Bernard Dow told him, that he donated to House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi before “his promotion magically came through.”

John Amabile, who is representing Burke, claimed the timing of the column was intended to influence the jury as it went into deliberations, and asked US District Court Judge William Young to question jurors individually about whether they saw the Globe’s coverage and to sequester the jury.

Young denied Amabile’s motion and jurors shook their heads when Young questioned them collectively and generally about seeing media coverage.

Commentators have issued opinions on the trial from beyond the Globe’s Morrissey Boulevard editorial offices, with varying perspectives.

Speaker Robert DeLeo over the past week has become a regular pundit on the trial, criticizing federal prosecutors for what he says is their nonsensical and “scurrilous” accusation that he was part of a jobs-for-votes arrangement.

Young has repeatedly remarked at what close attention the jury has paid to the testimony in the courtroom.

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Andy Metzger

Reporter, CommonWealth magazine

About Andy Metzger

Andy Metzger joined CommonWealth Magazine as a reporter in January 2019. He has covered news in Massachusetts since 2007. For more than six years starting in May 2012 he wrote about state politics and government for the State House News Service.  At the News Service, he followed three criminal trials from opening statements to verdicts, tracked bills through the flumes and eddies of the Legislature, and sounded out the governor’s point of view on a host of issues – from the proposed Olympics bid to federal politics.

Before that, Metzger worked at the Chelmsford Independent, The Arlington Advocate, the Somerville Journal and the Cambridge Chronicle, weekly community newspapers that cover an array of local topics. Metzger graduated from UMass Boston in 2006. In addition to his written journalism, Metzger produced a work of illustrated journalism about Gov. Charlie Baker’s record regarding the MBTA. He lives in Somerville and commutes mainly by bicycle.

About Andy Metzger

Andy Metzger joined CommonWealth Magazine as a reporter in January 2019. He has covered news in Massachusetts since 2007. For more than six years starting in May 2012 he wrote about state politics and government for the State House News Service.  At the News Service, he followed three criminal trials from opening statements to verdicts, tracked bills through the flumes and eddies of the Legislature, and sounded out the governor’s point of view on a host of issues – from the proposed Olympics bid to federal politics.

Before that, Metzger worked at the Chelmsford Independent, The Arlington Advocate, the Somerville Journal and the Cambridge Chronicle, weekly community newspapers that cover an array of local topics. Metzger graduated from UMass Boston in 2006. In addition to his written journalism, Metzger produced a work of illustrated journalism about Gov. Charlie Baker’s record regarding the MBTA. He lives in Somerville and commutes mainly by bicycle.

Media coverage became an issue during the trial when prosecutor Karin Bell asked Rep. Anne Gobi whether she reads the newspaper after she said she was unaware of DeLeo’s interest in the speakership in the spring of 2008.

“We plan to continue to perform our job, which is to produce high quality journalism. The defense attorneys are obviously free to pursue whatever tactics they choose,” said Globe spokeswoman Ellen Clegg.