Feds overreach on Teamsters

The feds came up short again on Tuesday in trying to turn obnoxious or even sleazy behavior into federal crimes.

It happened when the US Attorney’s office in Boston tried to make bare-knuckled political patronage at the state’s Probation Department a crime of racketeering and it happened again on Tuesday when a jury rejected a bid to turn the thuggish behavior of four Teamster picketers into a crime of extortion.

The Teamsters hurled racial epithets and sexist slurs at workers filming a segment for the TV show Top Chef at a restaurant in Milton; the show’s star, Padma Lakshmi, said she was terrified during her confrontation with the members of Teamsters Local 25.  But the jury of nine women and three men said the incidents didn’t rise to the level of extortion, which comes with as many as 20 years in federal prison.

“This is clearly a case of taking a sledgehammer to swat a fly,” said Mark Erlich, former head of the New England Regional Council of Carpenters. “The threat of 20 years in federal prison was disproportionate to inappropriate behavior on a picket line.”

Boston Herald columnist Bob McGovern summed up the problems with the Top Chef prosecution and the upcoming extortion trial of two aides to Boston Mayor Marty Walsh Kenneth Brissette and Timothy Sullivan.

The problem with these cases stems from the fact that there are other ways to resolve them,” McGovern wrote. “In the Teamster case, if there was evidence that tires were slashed or there was a physical altercation during the picketing outside the Milton restaurant where the Top Chef crew was shooting, the Norfolk prosecutor could have brought charges. If Brissette and Sullivan were indeed involved in withholding permits from the Boston Calling music festival, organizers could have run to court for a temporary restraining order to prevent the alleged actions from ruining the event. In both instances, federal indictments were overkill.”

The editorial pages of the Globe and Herald both condemned the behavior of the union officials, but the Globe went much further, using the occasion to whack the state’s film tax credit (“Yes, that’s right: Of all the workers in all the unions in all the world, your tax dollars are going to the Teamsters”) and Walsh (“Who’s going to do business in an environment where the mayor is happy to denounce bigots in faraway cities, but whose own administration tried to force businesses to hire them here?”)

BRUCE MOHL


BEACON HILL

Baker administration officials say they hope to hire a new education czar by the end of the year to replace Mitchell Chester, who passed away in June. (State House News)

MassDevelopment is buying up vacant and run-down properties in older industrial cities as part of its Transformative Development Initiative. (Boston Globe)

Gov. Charlie Baker travels to Mattapan to announce $72 million in state funding for 25 housing projects across the state. (Dorchester Reporter)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

The Worcester City Council voted 8-1 in favor of a resolution backing city efforts to pursue the Pawtucket Red Sox, including the possibility of building the team a new stadium. (Telegram & Gazette)

Swansea gets $1 million in state funds to revitalize Ocean Grove Town Beach. (South Coast Today)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

President Trump defended his initial remarks on the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, and again blamed both sides, saying those protesting the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee were not all white supremacists and neo-Nazis. He also questioned the removal of statues of people associated with the Confederacy, asking whether statues of George Washington will be removed because he owned slaves. (New York Times) A transcript of his remarks is here. (Time)

Nicholas Fuentes, an 18-year-old Boston University student who attended the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, says he will not be returning to school this fall because of death threats he has received. “Massachusetts, and Boston in particular, are among the most left-wing states and cities,” he said. (Boston Globe)

Baltimore removes four statues of officials linked to the Confederacy in an overnight operation. (New York Times)

A Texas bathroom bill is dead for now after a second legislative defeat. (Associated Press)

ELECTIONS

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jay Gonzalez blasts Gov. Charlie Baker for his handling of immigration, transgender rights, and refugee resettlement issues. (WGBH)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Walmart CEO Douglas McMillon joined other corporate and labor executives who have resigned from White House advisory groups in the wake of President Trump’s comments about the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia. (New York Times)

RELIGION

The sons and daughters of Catholic priests often learn late in life or not at all who their fathers are. The Catholic Church, meanwhile, leaves it up to the priests whether they have any financial or parental responsibility to their offspring. (Boston Globe)

EDUCATION

State officials are moving to plug significant gaps in their oversight and management of the Southbridge schools in the wake of departures by the schools receiver and other top officials. (Telegram & Gazette)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

The pay of nonprofit hospital executives bounced up and down in 2015. David Torchiana, the CEO of Partners HealthCare, earned the most, with combined compensation of $4.3 million. (Boston Globe)

The Plymouth County District Attorney’s office is investigating the death of a 26-year-old man who died after a mixed martial arts bout in Plymouth. (The Enterprise) The fighter was Rondel Clark, a former Westboro High School football star. (Telegram & Gazette)

TRANSPORTATION

The MBTA adopts a corporate mindset with the hiring of Luis Manuel Ramirez as its new general manager and CEO. Ramirez has a strong business background and turnaround skills, but no experience in transit or the public sector. (CommonWealth) Ramirez also likes to blog, as evidenced by commentary on politics and business on his Dallas consulting firm’s website. (CommonWealth)

Massachusetts traffic deaths are up 46 percent since 2013. (Boston Globe)

US Rep. Michael Capuano is disappointed the MBTA’s oversight board approved a pilot commuter rail project to Foxborough by extending service beyond the terminus of the Fairmount Line. Capuano said he worries the pilot may impact service on the Fairmount Line, but T officials say that won’t happen. (WGBH)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Solar developers and panel makers clash over a bid by two US manufacturers to seek a tariff on imports of components, primarily from China. Some in the industry say the low-cost imports have unfairly damaged their business, while others say the dropping prices have helped spure solar development. (New York Times)

CASINOS

Plainridge Park Casino posts its biggest revenue month since opening. (State House News)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

A motorist charged with an OUI after running down a Springfield pedestrian in a crosswalk said he was drinking on his doctor’s orders. (MassLive)

MEDIA
Lawrence officials again deny a request from the Eagle-Tribune for records related to an incident at police headquarters in May. The state’s public records supervisor has told the city to turn over the documents. (Eagle-Tribune)