Lawmaker bribes part of new indictment for ex probation head

house speaker robert deleo boston
House Speaker Robert DeLeo.
Credit: Nicolaus Czarnecki/METRO

About a week after he was acquitted on state conspriracy to commit bribery charges, the former head of the state’s Probation Department faced a new federal indictment that charges him with bribing state lawmakers with jobs for their associates, including Senate President Therese Murray and House Speaker Robert DeLeo. 

Federal authorities filed a superseding indictment against John O’Brien Wednesday. The new indictment alleges that O’Brien, who resigned in 2010 amid a patronage scandal, hired people recommended to him by several state lawmakers although they were not the most qualified for the jobs.

“The defendant O’Brien engaged in the conduct … in order to influence and attempt to influence members of the legislature to act favorably on legislation and budget requests regarding the Probation Department as well as to assist the Chairman in an upcoming contest for the post of Speaker of the House of Representatives,” authorities wrote in the 56-page indictment.

DeLeo and Murray are not charged and are not named in the indictment except by title. At the time of the alleged patronage, DeLeo was chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.

The indictment details specific instances of O’Brien allegedly hiring the recommended people despite their lack of qualifications.

For example, authorities wrote that one employee, who was only described by initials P. L. “was the son of a member of the state judiciary and was sponsored for employment by the President of the Senate as a probation officer at the Plymouth County Probate and Family Court. P. L. was not the most qualified candidate, but was hired in or about June 2008.”

A spokesman for Murray, who was served as Senate president since 2007, released a statement on her behalf.

“The indictment, when read properly, states that the probation department intended to influence legislators. Nothing in the indictment says the Senate President was influenced or had any knowledge of an alleged probation department scheme. The record is very clear that the Senate President has worked during her career to control probation department spending while ensuring its public safety role, and that she led a forceful reform of the department when allegations of improper hiring practices emerged,” the statement from David Falcone, a Murray spokesman, said.

DeLeo’s office also issued a statement.

“The superseding indictment appears to be a more detailed repetition of what has already been charged. It is clear that I am not a party to the indictment, but I want to state emphatically: I only recommended job applicants who were qualified. I never gave or received any benefits from those recommendations, and I never traded jobs for votes. There is no one who could honestly say otherwise,” DeLeo said in the statement.

A jury acquitted O’Brien last week on state charges that he allegedly used his influence to have Probation Department employees attend a fundraiser for then State Treasurer Tim Cahill so his wife could get a job at the Lottery.

Follow Michael Naughton on Twitter @metrobosmike.


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