Boston Calling verdict could have legs

Twelve jurors took six hours to convict two Boston City Hall aides, closing another chapter in federal prosecutors’ long-running effort to police Massachusetts government and politics.

Ken Brissette and Timothy Sullivan, who resigned soon after the trial ended Wednesday, pressured organizers of the Boston Calling music festival to hire union labor in 2014, which the organizers did even though they didn’t think it was necessary.

Unlike more straightforward cases of public corruption, the Boston Calling trial played out on the legal margins, and the court fight will continue into the appellate level to determine whether the verdict should stand. Neither Brissette, who was convicted of extortion and conspiracy, nor Sullivan, who was convicted of conspiracy and acquitted of extortion, stood to gain personally from the union hires.

Given the narrow path that Judge Leo Sorokin sketched for jurors to reach a guilty verdict – which included the judge’s assertion that political favors are legal – the decision was surprising to Jack Cunha, a criminal defense attorney who spoke to the Boston Globe.

“The question is ‘Was it a verdict that was decided on emotion rather than the law?’” Cunha asked.

The public hasn’t yet heard from those jurors – which included eight women and four men – but Chris Villani, of Law360, tweeted that the temporary public servants’ names and addresses will be available next Wednesday.

Massachusetts AFL-CIO President Steven Tolman called the verdict an “outright attack on working people and the people of Boston,” and predicted that even if Sorokin allows the decision to stand it will be overturned at the appellate level.

With the trial concluded, other non-legal questions remain: Will the guilty verdict cause political damage to Boston Mayor Marty Walsh? Will it change how government officials interact with business?

On that last score, Boston City Councilor Lydia Edwards, a former labor attorney, told WGBH she worries the decision will have a “chilling effect” on City Hall’s ability to reach favorable terms with businesses.

“There are corporations, developers who are absolutely gleeful with this decision — about how much more they can take from Boston without being held accountable,” Edwards said.

The editorial page of the Globe, which is dealing with its own labor unrest, reached a similar conclusion, but from a different vantage, cheering on the jury and pondering whether the verdict will “finally send the message to every other city official in every other corner of City Hall that the-way-it’s-always-been is no excuse?”

In a laconic statement, Walsh said he was “surprised and disappointed” by the verdict, and believes Brissette and Sullivan’s “hearts were in the right place.”

Walsh has weathered previous controversies stemming from his ultimately fruitless pursuits of the 2024 Summer Olympics and an IndyCar race on city streets. It would be ironic if the event that causes lasting political damage is the popular concert series that was successfully pulled off.

Taken together with the acquittal two years ago of four Teamsters in a similar labor case with a City Hall nexus, there is an odd and inconsistent message emanating from the federal courts. In that earlier case, union members allegedly hurled racial epithets and sexist slurs, and threatened Padma Lakshmi during filming for a Top Chef episode in Milton, but that shameful conduct did not constitute federal extortion.

US Attorney Andrew Lelling had a precedent-setting takeaway from Wednesday’s verdict, telling reporters, “Today is a reminder that pursuing a political agenda is one thing but forcing citizens to do your business through threats of financial ruin is something else.”

Someone ought to tell the president that his top prosecutor in Massachusetts believes making threats of financial ruin is wrong. After all, President Donald Trump has a long history of using his bully pulpit to belittle, cajole, and threaten businesses such as Amazon, CNN, and General Motors to do his political bidding.

More than a year ago, after Trump’s tweets appeared to cost Amazon billions of dollars in market cap, CNN compiled a list of the companies Trump has attacked.

More recently, after the president called foul, the Defense Department put a hold on a $10 billion cloud computing contract for Amazon – a company Trump counts among his political opposition because its CEO owns the Washington Post.

ANDY METZGER


BEACON HILL

Gov. Charlie Baker gave a “courtesy” heads-up to Rep. Shauna O’Connell that the mayor of Taunton was being named interim register of probate in Bristol County. O’Connell, the Republican rep from Taunton, used that information to get a jump in her own race for mayor. (CommonWealth)

State Auditor Suzanne Bump rejects a bid by Holyoke Community College to privatize its bookstore operations, a decision that could be costly for the school. (CommonWealth)

Beacon Hill analyst Michael Widmer says the governor’s proposed telecommuting tax credit misses the mark. (CommonWealth)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Homeless people and advocates for them are furious after a sweep through an area in the South End where they congregate resulted in several wheelchairs being tossed by police into garbage trucks. (Boston Globe) But a tense neighborhood meeting last night with city officials revealed sharp differences in public opinion on how to handle the overall situation. (Boston Herald)

Popular Quincy barber Giovanni Angelucci is in critical condition after he was hit by a police cruiser Wednesday morning while walking in his neighborhood. The officer was also taken to the hospital and placed on temporary leave. (Patriot Ledger) 

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

President Trump set out on what was billed as apolitical visits to the site of mass shootings in Ohio and Texas, but even before leaving Washington he started delivering broadsides against Democrats and continued to do so during the day-long trip. (New York Times)

In an odd twist, Twitter has locked the account of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell because it was sharing video of protesters outside his Kentucky house shouting threats toward the Republican pol. The company says sharing the video violates its policy that tweets “may not threaten violence against an individual or a group of people.” (Washington Post)

ELECTIONS

Thirteen petitions, including right to repair and ranked choice voting, are submitted for 2020 ballot questions. (MassLive)

Pressley’s win is also inspiring a surge of challengers to incumbent members of the state’s congressional delegation. (Boston Globe). Hear one of them, Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse, who is taking on veteran Rep. Richard Neal, make his case on The Codcast. The Justice Democrats political action committee endorses Morse in his primary challenge to Neal. (Daily Hampshire Gazette)

Former Boston city councilor Tom Keane writes that Ayanna Pressley’s success in jumping from the council to Congress, combined with activist energy unleashed in reaction to Donald Trump’s election, is responsible for the bumper crop of candidates running for Boston city council this year. (Boston Globe)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

The parent company of Stop & Shop says the worker strike in April cost the company $345 million. (Hartford Courant)

A two-year-long harbor dredging plan in New Bedford is poised to create opportunities for local businesses at 40 sites along the area. (Standard Times) 

The next big Boston area development prize: The 33.6-acre site of the former Wonderland dog racing track in Revere. (Boston Globe)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

The Framingham Public Health Department and the BU School of Public Health are teaming up to develop opioid usage guidelines for pediatricians. (MetroWest Daily News)

TRANSPORTATION

The latest Green Line derailment is the sixth at the MBTA this year and third one caused by human error. Of the remaining three, one was caused by a track issue and two are still under review. (CommonWealth)

As the MBTA explores battery powered electric buses, new questions arise about the transit authority’s aging repair facilities. (CommonWealth)

Making a bold step to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, Cape Air could become the first airline in the world to use battery-powered planes. (WBUR)

Route changes proposed as part of the MBTA’s Better Bus Project are stirring concerns in Lynn. (Daily Item)

A driver hauling an excavator across the Duck Bridge in Lawrence stopped several times to try to figure out what he had hit, apparently unaware of the damage caused to the trusses. (Eagle-Tribune)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

The owner of Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station and the plant’s potential buyer have submitted joint arguments against Attorney General Maura Healey’s suggestion that the review of a license transfer request be temporarily put on hold. (Cape Cod Times) 

The Lowell Sun catches up with the kayakers who are traversing the Merrimack River from New Hampshire to Newburyport to highlight the need for better environmental preservation.

A team of rescuers freed a minke whale a couple miles off the coast of Cape Ann before a white shark could move in for the kill. (Gloucester Daily Times)

CASINOS

MGM Resorts files a lawsuit challenging the federal approval of a plan by the two Indian-owned casinos in Connecticut to open third facility in East Windsor, Connecticut. (MassLive)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

Massachusetts jails prepare to offer medication-assisted treatment for drug addiction. (MassLive)

Prosecutors dismissed charges against four former defendants now at the center of a criminal case involving Fall River police officer Michael Pessoa, indicted on 15 counts for allegedly using excessive force and abusing his authority. (Herald News) 

Brian Brito plans to mount an insanity defense for a violent crime spree that played out over a few days in March 2017 when he allegedly murdered Mohammedreza Sina Zangiband and shot and raped others. (Salem News)

MEDIA

Governing magazine is shutting down this fall, telling readers the publication is “unsustainable as a business in today’s media environment. (Governing)

Pacific Standard is shutting down as its major funder says it no longer can support the publication. (Nieman Journalism Lab)