The former head of the probation department and two of his deputies were convicted Thursday on charges they rigged the department's hiring process to favor unqualified candidates with political connections.
After a 10-week trial, there was drama in and out of the courtroom. Inside, after former probation head John O'Brien was convicted on racketeering and mail fraud, his wife collapsed and was carried out on a stretcher, their daughters tearfully following as their mother was put in an ambulance and taken to the hospital. Shortly after Attorney Stellio Sinnis pledged to appeal.
“Obviously we’re going to continue fighting for Jack and Laurie and the girls," Sinnis said. "And we’re confident that at the end of this process he’ll come out on top.”
The defendants were found guilty of creating a “sham” system to make it appear candidates were being hired for jobs in the probation department on merit, when they’d been recommended by powerful state lawmakers. On behalf of the prosecution, U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz said she was happy with the guilty verdicts, but she declined to discuss the lawmakers named in the case, only saying the trial sent a message.
“Corruption is very serious," Ortiz said. "It really impedes the ability for there to be credibility in the system, and that people care that individuals placed in positions of power and of trust, that they do the work.”
O'Brien's deputies, Elizabeth Tavares and William Burke, were also convicted on some of the charges brought against them — Tavares on racketeering and mail fraud, Burke on conspiracy charges.
The verdict came after 35 days of testimony and seven days of deliberations. It was a case that brought new attention to patronage in state government.