BOSTON, JUNE 5, 2014…..Attempting to prove that a small group of top officials manipulated hiring in the probation department, federal prosecutors on Thursday elicited the names of four allegedly fraudulent hires at the Middlesex Juvenile Court, and introduced their first direct victim of the alleged rigged hiring scheme in the department.
Brian Murphy, who is currently a regional administrator for probation, testified that he has participated in hundreds of hiring panels, and said about 75 percent of the time he was given names to advance to the final round. He said he only disagreed with the choice about five times.
Prosecutors allege former Probation Commissioner John O’Brien and two of his former deputies, Elizabeth Tavares and William Burke III, operated a surreptitious patronage program, granting jobs to politically backed applicants in exchange for “political currency” from state lawmakers and others.
In 2007, Murphy interviewed Mari-Elena Sanchez, the daughter of Essex County Juvenile Court Judge Jose Sanchez; Kevin O’Brien; Antonio Mataragas, who was already employed in the department’s electronic monitoring division; and Michael White. All four were hired to positions at the Middlesex Juvenile Court, though prosecutors contend they were not the most qualified.
Murphy said he was given the names of those four candidates by either former probation legislative liaison Ed Ryan or Tavares, though he did not say that any of the candidates were not the most qualified for the job – one of the prosecution’s contentions.
Ryan would generally ask Murphy to “consider” the preferred candidates while Tavares would ask him to give them a “good look,” said Murphy, who testified he would share the names of the identified candidates with the chief probation officer but not the judge who participated in the three-person interviews.
“I would probably give them a higher score,” said Murphy, a former correction department employee who turned down a job with the Cambridge Police to pursue a career in probation with the backing of John Irwin, then the chief justice of administration and management for the Trial Court and the father of a friend who played hockey with Murphy.
Murphy said he sat on the juvenile court interview panels with Gail Garinger, then a judge, who is now the state’s child advocate. Two others were also hired during that 2007 round whose qualifications the prosecution has not challenged. Defense attorney Stellio Sinnis has sought to draw out testimony throughout the trial about some candidates who might have been passed over for one position, but later hired into a different court.
On one of the rare occasions when Murphy said he had been asked to advance someone he felt was not a good candidate – someone seeking a promotion to assistant chief probation officer after only about four or five years as a line probation officer – Murphy said he advanced the name and then raised his concern to Tavares, who told him, “Just do the best you can, and we’ll deal with whatever comes later.”
Jurors also heard from Kathryn Anzalone, an associate probation officer in Plymouth District Court, who applied to be a full-fledged probation officer in late 2007. The two available jobs at the Plymouth court went to Melissa Melia and Patricia Mosca, who prosecutors claim leapfrogged more qualified candidates because they had political backing from Senate President Therese Murray.
Prosecutors have previously said that the more qualified people who were passed over are the most direct victims of the alleged crimes.
Anzalone had references from then-Plymouth Chief Probation Officer Tom Morris and Thomas Brownell, then the presiding judge, both of whom participated in the three-person interview panel with probation official Frank Campbell, and ranked her in first place.
Anzalone listed four family members as probation officers or court officers, including her father the assistant chief probation officer at Malden District Court, and her brother Steve Anzalone, Jr. who reportedly sued then Chief Justice of Administration and Management Robert Mulligan for not approving his appointment as a probation officer. She was 26 when she applied for the job, had been an associate for about 20 months and had previously been a hostess and waitress at Legal Seafoods in Chestnut Hill.
Anzalone was making $34,600 as an associate probation officer when she applied for the job that ultimately went to Mosca at a starting salary of $52,000 per year. Anzalone, who is still an associate probation officer, was represented in court on Thursday for her appearance on the stand by Terrence Kennedy, a member of the Governor’s Council and practicing attorney.
Murphy’s discussion of four of the hires that prosecutors say involved the crime of mail fraud has set the prosecution on track to complete its presentation on the eight mail fraud charges allowing them to move on to racketeering, Judge William Young said.
Mosca, who has contradicted herself and others on the witness stand, had a testy exchange with prosecutor Fred Wyshak, who questioned her insistence that she sought out the probation job to work with people rather than to boost her pension.
“That actually was a perk, yes, but it wasn’t my intention,” said Mosca about moving up into the pension class reserved for people with somewhat hazardous jobs, such as probation officers and ambulance attendants.
A Bourne resident and Democratic state committeewoman, Mosca was 56 and thinking about her retirement when she discussed obtaining a probation job with Murray’s aide Francine Gannon. Mosca retired about a year after taking the probation job, though she claims she would have been laid off if she hadn’t taken a buyout.
Mosca said she was “absolutely, after 36 years” considering retirement when she was working at the Department of Transitional Assistance and contacted Gannon about other work in 2007. Although she acknowledged Gannon opened her constituent services file on her in October 2007, two months before the probation job was posted, Mosca denied Wyshak’s suggestion that she had asked Gannon to help her get any job that would put her in the Group 2 pension class before settling on probation.
Under questioning from defense attorney Christine DeMaso, Mosca said she had enjoyed her job at the welfare department when she was part of a unit that investigated benefits fraud, but lost interest in the work as she became an administrator. Mosca, who argued that moving into a different retirement group allowed her to retire sooner, but did boost her pay, said she would explain benefit calculations to judges as part of the Division of Special Investigations.
Mosca said she spent a lot of time at Murray’s office in from 2007 through 2008, and said that even though she was stationed in Hyannis her job often took her to Boston. Mosca, who ran for Governor’s Council in 2010, said she reached out to Murray initially hoping she could list her as a reference, though her application does not show Murray’s name as a reference.
On Wednesday Commonwealth Magazine published photos online of Mosca posing with Vice President Joe Biden, Attorney General Martha Coakley, DeLeo and Murray’s former aide Rick Musiol.
Mosca was a talkative witness who Wyshak kept trying to corral back to his questions.
Her application lists “artist” as one of her professions, she offered to bring food during one of her visits to the senate president’s office and she said Gannon asked her about allegedly knitting during her probation interview, which she denies.
“I was knitting in the interview room because it was snowing and I got there two hours early,” said Mosca, who said she did not knit during her interview. An email Mosca sent to Gannon around the time of the job hunt said, “I will be there around lunch time and would love to pick something up for you. I feel like such a nudge not bringing something for the office, being in the district and coming in there so much.”
Mosca said that in 2009 – as the state lurched through the recession – she decided to retire, saying if she had not retired she would have been laid off. She conceded no actual layoffs occurred because early retirements were able to cut costs for the probation department.
“I would have preferred to stay in the job,” said Mosca, who said she retired “out of fear.”
Mosca’s discussion with Wyshak also strayed into their personal interactions, as the federal prosecutor asked the retiree about a prior meeting when Wyshak suggested she may not have been qualified for the probation job and Mosca walked out of the room.
“You asked me that one question and my son said, ‘We’re leaving now,’” said Mosca, whose son is an attorney and representing her in the case. When Wyshak asked about her disobeying his directive to stay within the state ahead of her 2012 grand jury testimony, she said, “And you had me come back for a day from Florida, and fly back that day.”
Copyright 2014 State House News Service