Politics & Government
3:35 pm
Thu July 31, 2014

O'Brien Juror Fingers DeLeo, Criticizes Walsh

Massachusetts House Speaker Robert DeLeo during a press conference at the Statehouse in Boston Thursday, April 21, 2011 where he discussed and unveiled legislation designed to overhaul the state Probation Department.
Credit (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

Boston mayor Marty Walsh is being called irresponsible and reckless for defending fallen Probation Department head John O'Brien.

O'Brien and two aides were found guilty of running the Probation Department like a criminal enterprise, awarding jobs for personal gain.

Mayor Walsh defended O'Brien in an appearance on WGBH's Boston Public Radio this week, saying O'Brien wasn't guilty of a crime and that the system got the better of him.

As a result of Walsh's comments, a disgruntled juror emailed WGBH News' Jim Braude, which the Boston Globe confirmed was, in fact, a juror.

While criticizing Mayor Walsh, the unidentified juror also feels House Speaker Bob DeLeo should have been on trial instead of O'Brien.

Our political reporter Sarah Birnbaum is on the story and is trying to get both Mayor Walsh and Speaker DeLeo's response to the juror's criticism of them.

Here is the text of the juror's email:

As a member of the jury that delivered the verdict in the John O’brien trial, I find the Mayor’s comments irresponsible and reckless, and borderline ridiculous. He suggests we came to the wrong decision and then states that he didn’t “get all the facts of the case”. So how would he know if we came to the wrong decision or not? He also seems confused as to what the charges were even about. I would hope the Mayor of a major city would know something (anything) about an issue before he comments.

Furthermore, he states elected officials have “an obligation to be helpful to their constituents, including – when appropriate – assistance with employment opportunities, writing letters of recommendations for schools, and so on.” Great! But that has nothing to do with what John O’brien was charged with or with what we found proven. It was made clear from the beginning that political patronage was not illegal. Nor was it even illegal that there was a rigged system. What we found him guilty of was mail fraud. What was illegal was that there was a reasonable expectation that US mails would be used, and John’s signature stated he complied with the Personnel and Policy manual which state hiring must be based on merit. Speaking for myself and no other jurors, as well as being instructed as to what mail fraud actually is, I found that proven beyond a reasonable doubt which led to the charges of racketeering and conspiracy.

I just want to make it clear that this was a hard case for all of us. We didn’t take the charges lightly—these are people’s lives. Personally, I found O’brien likeable and feel he was stuck between a rock and a hard place—make the legislature happy, or suffer budget cuts and/or layoffs of the staff you oversee and care about. He did the wrong things for the right reasons. For the Mayor to make the comments he did, diminishes our efforts and his admission that he really didn’t know what the case was about is pretty much a slap in our face.

Which leads to ELMO and Deleo; I have followed his statements about the verdict. In no way do I feel our decision exonerated Deleo. To the contrary, I feel he should have been on trial rather than O’brien. We found gratuity proven, rather than bribery, because no witness was able to testify to the conversations that occurred between O’brien and Deleo. All of it seemed suspicious, but we had no testimony that spoke to what Deleo said or did. To feel these jobs were given to Deleo to hand out for no reason whatsoever strains credulity, however I feel O’brien himself is the only person who could prove whether this was a gratuity or a bribe and he chose not to testify.

My hope is that John himself will at some point testify against Deleo and in exchange, any sentence against him or Liz Tavares, or Bill Burke will be lessened or done away with all together.

Update, 3:25 p.m.: House Speaker Robert DeLeo responded in a statement:

"I find it incredible that an unidentified juror would express his or her personal view of my culpability in a case in which I was not charged, not called as a witness and not able to present evidence or otherwise defend my reputation."

Read the full statement.

Watch Mayor Marty Walsh's comments:

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