After two-week trial and about seven hours of deliberation, a federal jury returned verdicts of guilty and partly-guilty for two Boston City Hall officials charged with extortion and conspiracy to commit extortion.
Kenneth Brissette, the city's tourism and entertainment director, was found guilty on both counts. Co-defendant Timothy Sullivan was found guilty of the conspiracy charge but not guilty of extortion.
The men face a maximum 20 years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines, though any sentence could be significantly lower.
Federal prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney's Office District of Massachusetts alleged the men used their power and influence within City Hall as leverage to extort the Boston Calling music festival into hiring union labor the festival's organizes didn't want or need.
Attorneys for the defendants argued the prosecution had presented no evidence of threats or the motive of personal gain, and that the men had simply been trying to do their jobs in trying to broker a resolution to a simmering labor dispute between the festival and Boston's Local 11 stagehands union, and avoid a nasty public picket on city property.
The men were first charged in 2015; the case dragged on for three years of legal wrangling. The case was dismissed by the presiding judge in 2018, after prosecutors acknowledged they couldn't prove that the men sought to obtain a tangible personal benefit.
Earlier this year, however, an appellate court sent the case back for trial.
While charges were pending, both defendants remained free and employed at City Hall.
As the verdicts were read, Brissette and Sullivan maintained composure but appeared stunned.
After the jury was released, Brissette left the courtroom to embrace family members, who were openly weeping. Family for both defendants have been in attendance throughout the trial.
During the trial, prosecutors presented about a dozen witnesses, including three Boston Calling executives. who testified that they felt pressure from the defendants to hire union members they didn't want to staff their Fall, 2014 festival.
Lawyers for the defense tried to impeach the prosecution's narrative, including eliciting testimony from Boston Calling's executives that the defendants had made no threats, had asked and not demanded they hire union labor, and that they did not feel the defendants meant to harm them or their business -— and, indeed, that they had hoped to turn their reluctant ultimate decision to hire union members into an opportunity for better terms from the city for future festivals.
The defense also attacked a fundamental prosecutorial narrative: that the defendants had exploited the fact that the festival was still waiting on crucial permits days before the festival opened. Among just two witnesses to take the stand for the defense was former Boston Police Commissioner Bill Evans, who testified that the delay in the festival's liquor license was due to his public safety concerns -- and had nothing to do with the defendants.
But those arguments failed to convince the twelve-member jury.
In a brief press conference following the verdict, U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling told reporters the case had been hard-fought and he was satisfied with the outcome.
"Pursuing a political agenda is one thing but forcing citizens to do your bidding through threats of financial ruin is something else," Lelling said.
In a statement released shortly after the verdict, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said he was "surprised and disappointed."
Walsh stood by the men throughout the prolonged case, keeping the two on the city payroll despite pushback from critics who said those facing federal charges should be placed on leave until their cases were resolved.
A city official confirmed with WGBH News after the verdict was announced that Brissette and Sullivan have resigned from their positions with the city of Boston.
Boston City Councilor Lydia Edwards told WGBH News she was concerned the verdict will have a "chilling effect" on the ability of city officials to press corporations with city contracts for favorable terms.
"There are corporations, developers who are absolutely gleeful with this decision — about how much more they can take from Boston without being held accountable," Edwards said.
Despite the verdict, there remains a potentially volatile unanswered question: How U.S. District Judge Leo Sorokin will rule on an open motion by the defense for a "judgement of acquittal," -- a motion which, if granted, would acquit the defendants despite the jury's verdict.
Sorokin heard arguments from both sides on the defense's motion for acquittal before the case went to the jury, and at times seemed skeptical that the prosecution's case -- even if true -- met the legal definition of extortion.
Sorokin declined to rule on the motion, but noted he found "issues" in the prosecution's case.
The judge has given the defense one week to submit any new arguments in that motion; then prosecutors will have two weeks to respond.
WGBH News' Mark Herz contributed to this report.