More pushback against Ortiz

Pushback against US Attorney Carmen Ortiz’s prosecutorial style seems to be building.

Boston Globe columnist Scot Lehigh highlights the extortion cases brought by Ortiz against two aides to Boston Mayor Marty WalshTimothy Sullivan and Ken Brissette.

Both are accused of holding up permits for the Boston Calling music festival on City Hall Plaza until the organizers agreed to hire union workers. Lehigh calls their actions “objectionable,” but he doesn’t think they warrant criminal prosecutions and possible 20-year jail sentences, particularly since the two men didn’t benefit personally in any way. “That strikes me as colossal overkill,” he writes.

But what’s really interesting is that a small group of former state and federal prosecutors agree with Lehigh and are speaking out publicly.

Lehigh quotes Frank McNamara, who served as US attorney in the late 1980s, as saying the actions of Sullivan and Brissette don’t rise to a federal offense. “This is what I call shooting a mouse with a cannon,” he said.

Former state attorney general Thomas Reilly agrees. “There are other options, and I think better options, to handle this without branding them as criminals and indicting them,” he said.

The two prosecutors say it would make more sense to dispense with the criminal prosecution and seek a resolution in some other way.

Lehigh’s column follows in the wake of a much broader article in the Huffington Post in July that raised questions about a host of prosecutions by Ortiz and the federal prosecutor’s close ties to the Globe. That article also quoted another former state prosecutor, Martha Coakley, as saying that Ortiz’s priorities are misplaced.

“You’d like to think the focus would be on those organizations like human trafficking rings, drug smuggling rings, the kind of organizations that in and of themselves represent a threat to safety, public safety,” she said. Coakley said many of Ortiz’s prosecutions have “a competing social interest, sort of civil disobedience context.”

BRUCE MOHL

BEACON HILL

Joe Battenfeld says the Department of Conservation and Recreation has become a hack haven, loaded up with Baker administration patronage hires. (Boston Herald)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Salem looks to buy a piece of property for $1.4 million in a bid to complete a harbor walk on South River Channel. (Salem News)

Violators of drought restrictions in Worcester are getting warnings for now. (Telegram & Gazette)

State officials approve Worcester’s downtown urban renewal plan. (Telegram & Gazette)

A 20-year veteran of the Brockton Police Department has filed a suit against a superior officer and the department claiming he was a victim of racial discrimination over an allegedly fabricated assault charge by the supervisor that he says is refuted by surveillance cameras. (The Enterprise)

An Eagle-Tribune editorial slams the new tailgating policy at Andover High School as being too big brotherish.

Questions are being raised over whether the Wareham Police department has lost its state accreditation, with the chief refusing to confirm or deny it. (Standard-Times)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

Sen. Elizabeth Warren is demanding that the FBI release information on its investigation of the 2008 fiscal crisis, saying the agency set a precedent by releasing information on its probe of Hillary Clinton’s email server even though no charges were brought. (Boston Globe)

Oracle settles with Oregon and agrees to compensate the state for building a botched Obamacare website. (Governing)

Look for John Kerry to pursue environmental issues in his post-secretary of state life. (Boston Globe)

Washington state says it will test pot for banned pesticides more frequently. (Time)

ELECTIONS

THC-infused “edibles” are increasingly at the center of debate over marijuana legalization, one of four ballot questions facing Massachusetts voters this November. (Boston Globe) Jonathan Bush, the head of a Watertown-based health care company and cousin of former president George W. Bush, has donated $10,000 to the pro-legalization “Yes on 4” campaign. (Boston Globe) US Rep. Seth Moulton is also backing the legalization of marijuana. (WGBH)

Donald Trump continues to balk at releasing his taxes, as his poll numbers rise. (Boston Globe)

With polls showing the race a virtual tie, Trump’s paths to electoral victory have grown considerably. (U.S. News & World Report)

Despite his surrogates insisting he believes President Obama was born in the US, Trump himself continues to refuse to say the words. (Washington Post)

Hillary Clinton’s campaign is focusing on voters repulsed by Trump who are drifting toward third-party candidates rather than her. (New York Times)

With issues taking a back seat to personality and personal issues, the 2016 presidential race is affirming the “celebritization of politics,” writes the Globe’s James Pindell.

The 2016 election is looking like a bust for the United Independent Party, which has just one endorsed candidate out of the 200 legislative seats up for grabs. (Boston Globe)

EDUCATION

A $22 million budget gap, tuition increases, and faculty cuts prompted protests at yesterday’s convocation to start the year at the University of Massachusetts Boston. (Boston Globe) State Education Secretary James Peyser gets a raucous reception. (State House News)

UMass Amherst prepares to break ground on a $62 million Business Innovation Hub. (Masslive)

Worcester schools superintendent Maureen Binienda says enrollment is trending up. (Telegram & Gazette)

Some Westport residents want the town to explore joining neighboring Dartmouth in a regional school district before committing to building new schools. (Herald News)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

The vast majority of overdose deaths in the state are due to illegal drugs, not prescription opioids. (Boston Globe)

The state has given initial approval for Nantucket Cottage Hospital to build a new 106,000-square foot hospital to replace the current cramped and aging facility. (Cape Cod Hospital)

TRANSPORTATION

Transit advocates say the way the MBTA shuts down operations at night is very costly. (CommonWealth)

Easton and Stoughton residents packed a public hearing on South Coast Rail and sent a strong message to state officials they do not want the project running through their towns. That opposition may give a leg up to an alternative route through Middleboro. (The Enterprise)

Rep. William Pignatelli tells state transportation officials that Berkshire County residents should receive the same Turnpike toll discounts that some Boston residents get. (Berkshire Eagle)

A Salem News editorial calls for greater investment in public transportation to ease congestion along the Highland Avenue corridor and elsewhere.

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

A UMass Amherst study predicts that by 2050 there will only be 20 days a year with temperatures below freezing. (WBUR)

Fishermen, environmentalists, and elected officials offer very mixed reactions to President Obama’s designation of the first marine mammal monument in the Atlantic Ocean, a swath about the size of Connecticut that lies 130 miles south of Cape Cod. (Boston Globe)

NOAA is deploying underwater sensors off the US coasts to measure man-made sounds and the impact on marine life. (Cape Cod Times)

CASINOS

Revenues were down but payouts were up in August at Plainridge Park Casino, as the slots hall appears to be giving some short-term profits to build a bigger customer base, writes Sean Murphy. (Boston Globe)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

The former head of an area Teamsters local pleads guilty to extortion charges in connection with the Top Chef case that has ties to Boston City Hall. (Boston Globe) The federal judge handling the case raises questions about the lenient plea deal reached between Mark Harrington and federal prosecutors that calls for house arrest and probation, but no jail time. (Boston Herald)

The state Appeals Court has overturned the 2010 conviction of a man in the killing of an off-duty Revere police officer. (Boston Herald)

Family members gather to remember murder victims at Boston’s Garden of Peace. (Boston Herald)

A 56-year-old Hingham woman was sentenced to two years in prison after pleading guilty in federal court to fraudulently receiving five mortgages totaling more than $2 million on the same property she owns in the tony South Shore town. (Patriot Ledger)

MEDIA

NBC said it made $250 million off the Rio Olympics despite lower viewership. (Advertising Age)

The Guardian says its plans to cut staff at its US operations by 30 percent. (Politico)