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Former Probation Commissioner’s Corruption Trial Begins

BOSTON — In 2010, then-Massachusetts Probation Department Commissioner John “Jack” O’Brien was forced out of his job under a cloud of accusations. Now, the disgraced commissioner is on trial, facing charges of conspiracy.

O’Brien is accused of conspiring to use illegal schemes to secure a job for his wife. In 2005, he organized a fundraiser for then-state Treasurer Timothy Cahill. Around the same time, O’Brien’s wife landed a job with the state lottery. (The treasurer runs the lottery.)

That’s no coincidence, according to Peter Mullen, a prosecutor with the attorney general’s office.

“That fundraiser was a success for Mr. Cahill. He received $11,100 in contributions that night,” Mullen said Thursday during opening arguments. “The fundraiser was also a success for the defendant. Three months after that fundraiser, his wife began a job at the lottery.”

But O’Brien’s lawyer, Paul Flavin, said there’s no link between the job and the fundraiser.

“Not only is Jack O’Brien not guilty of participating in that conspiracy,” Flavin said, “such a conspiracy itself never happened.”

Flavin told jurors that Laurie O’Brien submitted her resume and interviewed for the lottery job just like any other candidate.

Beyond the possibility of bribery or an illegal quid pro quo, the prosecution also said it has evidence of campaign finance violations. The AG’s office told the court that O’Brien used his power as probation commissioner to stack that 2005 fundraiser with his employees.

O’Brien’s lawyer agreed that many department employees attended the fundraiser, but he said no one was pressured to show up and donate.

“People go to these political fundraisers as a social event, to politically network, to be seen with the higher-ups, to get face-time, to rub elbows, to be there,” Flavin said.

Regardless of the verdict, this trial is not the end for O’Brien. He still faces separate federal charges of racketeering and fraud.

This post was updated with the All Things Considered feature version.

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