Probation juror says DeLeo should have been on trial

Calls Walsh ‘irresponsible, reckless, and borderline ridiculous’

One of the jurors in the Probation Department corruption trial sent an email to a radio talk show host on Thursday saying he felt House Speaker Robert DeLeo should have been on trial instead of former Probation commissioner John O’Brien and two of his top aides.

O’Brien and two top deputies, Elizabeth Tavares and William Burke III, were convicted of racketeering, conspiracy, and mail fraud charges last week at a trial that exposed how the Probation Department rigged its hiring system to steer jobs to politically connected people.

DeLeo quickly issued a statement in response to the juror’s email, saying he found it incredible that an unidentified juror would express a personal view of his culpability in a case “in which I was not charged, not called as a witness, and not able to present evidence or otherwise defend my reputation.”

The Probation verdict is generating enormous controversy. DeLeo, who was identified by prosecutors as an unindicated coconspirator during the trial, said the verdict exonerated him because the jury rejected bribery charges. Boston Mayor Marty Walsh appeared on WGBH’s Boston Public Radio show on Tuesday with Jim Braude and Margery Eagan and said he didn’t think O’Brien committed a crime.

The juror, who was not identified, took sharp issue with both public officials. (For a full transcript of the email, click here.)

“In no way do I feel our decision exonerated DeLeo. To the contrary, I feel he should have been on trial rather than O’Brien. We found gratuity proven, rather than bribery, because no witness was able to testify to the conversations that occurred between O’Brien and DeLeo. All of it seemed suspicious, but we had no testimony that spoke to what DeLeo said or did,” the juror’s email said.

“To feel these jobs were given to DeLeo to hand out for no reason whatsoever strains credulity; however, I feel O’Brien himself is the only person who could prove whether this was a gratuity or a bribe and he chose not to testify. My hope is that John [O’Brien] himself will at some point testify against DeLeo and, in exchange, any sentence against him or Liz Tavares or Bill Burke will be lessened or done away with all together.”

The juror went on to say the case was a hard one for the jury. “Personally, I found O’Brien likeable and feel he was stuck between a rock and a hard place – make the Legislature happy, or suffer budget cuts and/or layoffs of the staff you oversee and care about. He did the wrong things for the right reasons.”

DeLeo condemned the continued attacks on him. “Under these circumstances, it is impossible to defend oneself against allegations that lack sufficient evidence to result in an indictment,” he said in his statement. “The evidence was lacking because the allegations are untrue. Unfortunately, allegations don’t have to be true in order to be harmful; they need only be frequent. Repetition will not change the fact that the allegations are false, and they can never be proven to be otherwise.”

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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.

As he has in the past, DeLeo focused on key legal issues in the case but did not explain what he was doing handing out Probation jobs at a facility in Clinton. Trial testimony indicated DeLeo and one of his aides would tell other lawmakers about the availability of jobs and allow those lawmakers to recommend people for the positions. The people in most cases were hired sight unseen by O’Brien.

The juror also criticized Walsh’s comments as “irresponsible and reckless, and borderline ridiculous,” largely because the mayor admitted he didn’t follow the case closely or have all the facts. The juror said that, in his opinion, federal prosecutors proved beyond a reasonable doubt the charge of mail fraud, which formed the basis for the racketeering and conspiracy charges.

“I would hope the Mayor of a major city would know something (anything) about an issue before he comments,” the juror wrote.