BOSTON A federal jury was selected Wednesday to hear the trial of three former Massachusetts probation officials charged with rigging the department’s hiring process to favor politically connected jobseekers.
Nine women and seven men make up the 16-member panel, including four alternate jurors. Opening statements from prosecutors and defense attorneys were expected to begin Thursday in U.S. District Court.
John O’Brien, the former state probation commissioner, and deputies Elizabeth Tavares and William Burke have pleaded not guilty to charges including racketeering and mail fraud. The three schemed to hire candidates who were recommended by powerful state legislators and other officials, often bypassing more qualified candidates, according to a federal indictment.
Defense lawyers say their clients never did anything illegal for personal gain.
Judge William Young questioned many of the potential jurors individually Wednesday, apparently seeking to determine how much they knew about the case and their familiarity with some of the many well-known witnesses that might be called to the stand during the trial.
A list of possible defense witnesses includes dozens of current or former legislators, including House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Therese Murray, and past and present judges including the chief justice of the state Supreme Judicial Court.
Young told jurors to avoid exposure to media reports about the closely-watched trial, including through Twitter or other social media outlets.
“You are silent on social media as to this case,” he instructed the panel.
Young has predicted the trial could last up to two months.