Patrick sees probation verdict as “the end of it”

(AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

BOSTON (STATE HOUSE) – The jury’s verdict in the job-rigging trial of three former probation department managers, who were found guilty of racketeering conspiracy, is “the end of it,” Gov. Deval Patrick told reporters Friday, declining to speculate on the trial’s impact on House Speaker Robert DeLeo.

After a weeks-long trial, the 12-member jury found former Probation Commissioner John O’Brien and two of his former deputies, Elizabeth Tavares and William Burke III, guilty of racketeering conspiracy, with O’Brien and Tavares also guilty on mail fraud charges for hiring individuals recommended by top lawmakers while pretending to oversee a merit-based hiring system. The jury determined allegations of bribery by O’Brien were not proven, while the lesser allegation of illegal gratuities, in the form of jobs that lawmakers helped fill, had been proven.

During the trial, witnesses outlined probation department efforts to ensure that individuals recommended by lawmakers were hired and several lawmakers testified that they were afforded by DeLeo’s office an opportunity to recommend an individual for a probation job and in each case that person was hired.

Asked whether he thought the verdict would damage DeLeo politically, Patrick, after attending a Cabinet meeting, said, “I think the jury has spoken. I think the charges that were filed have been resolved, and for me, and I think as far as I can tell the U.S. Attorney’s position, that’s the end of it. The speaker and his relationship with his body is between the speaker and his body.”

Patrick and Senate President Therese Murray are not seeking re-election this year but DeLeo has one more full term ahead of him as House speaker, under legislative rules, should he win election in November and be re-elected speaker by his colleagues in January, as is currently expected.

Patrick distinguished between patronage, which is not a crime, and what prosecutors say went on in the probation department.

“Patronage is not against the law, if what you mean by patronage is that you can put qualified people whom you may know into jobs of trust,” Patrick said. “This business of a quid pro quo, which was the issue that was the subject in the trial, is not something I see a lot here.”

Patrick then said, “We certainly saw it in probation. That’s what the U.S. attorney proved.” A Patrick aide later said the governor had not meant to imply that a quid pro quo existed and said the verdict speaks for itself.

Former Probation Commissioner John O’Brien was acquitted of bribing House lawmakers with jobs for their supporters and convicted of racketeering that included the lesser crime of giving lawmakers illegal gratuities in the form of jobs. Gratuities do not involve the same quid-pro-quo relationship as bribes.

DeLeo issued a statement on Thursday, after the jury’s verdict, noting the jury’s conclusion of defendants providing a gratuity, which is a “unilateral offense.”

“In other words, after hearing all the evidence the jury correctly concluded that neither I nor any other member of the Legislature engaged in any quid pro quo or had any knowledge of the defendant’s intent,” DeLeo said.

DeLeo claimed the verdict was “consistent” with the findings of an independent counsel’s 2010 report on patronage in the Probation Department, “which found no impropriety on my part.”

Paul Ware, the independent counsel who looked into the pervasiveness of patronage hires within the probation department, hit back at DeLeo in a Channel 5 interview that aired Thursday night, saying DeLeo was mischaracterizing his investigation.

“He’s making lemonade out of lemons,” Ware said.

“I think it’s blatantly inappropriate and inaccurate to characterize my investigation as having exonerated him. Because that is certainly not the case,” Ware added.

“And I don’t imply by that that I found any culpability in the sense of criminal wrongdoing one way or the other. It neither exonerated him nor did the investigation inculpate him in any substantive way,” Ware told the news station. “And that’s because we didn’t investigate him.”

DeLeo insisted that Ware’s 2010 report had exonerated him, and accused the attorney of “suddenly” making an “inconsistent statement.” In a statement Friday, DeLeo cited Ware’s statement soon after the November 2010 release of his report that he had “no reason to believe Speaker DeLeo did anything inappropriate. I do not think [the report] sheds any negative light on Speaker DeLeo.”

“Mr. Ware’s attempt to rewrite history is disturbing and unprofessional,” DeLeo said in a statement provided to the News Service. “Fortunately, the public record reflects accurately his statements and opinion upon which I and others relied.”

In November 2010, DeLeo claimed the report indicated no impropriety on his part.

“I think that the Ware report, at least as far as what I was concerned, also stated that there should be no feeling of any impropriety on behalf of the speaker,” DeLeo said on Nov. 29, 2010. He said, “So I think that if he’s saying that that may have occurred, obviously it didn’t come under my watch either as chairman of ways and means or speaker of the house.”

The next day, a Ware deputy clarified the scope of the report.

“The report does not accuse any politician of criminal conduct in connection with hiring or exonerate any politician. We only drew conclusions with respect to individuals in the Probation Department,” said Kevin Martin, Ware’s deputy independent counsel, on Nov. 30, 2010. “While we did not find any specific evidence of wrongdoing by Rep. DeLeo, that was not our focus. We leave it to other government agencies to follow up on the statistical evidence we noted with respect to legislators.”

The Ware report did not include information about DeLeo offering lawmakers the chance to recommend a candidate for a job in the probation department’s electronic monitoring program, which became a focus of the trial. DeLeo’s attorney Robert Popeo has said that because the jury found the bribery allegations related to the electronic monitoring jobs were unproven, the verdict cleared him.

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