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Father Of Probation Officer, A Judge, Testifies At Corruption Trial

BOSTON — A one-time probation officer returns to the witness stand Wednesday morning in the corruption cover-up trial of former state probation Commissioner John O’Brien and two co-defendants.

Federal court jurors also heard Tuesday from the father of the officer, Patrick Lawton, about the connections that he used to help land the job for his son.

Mark Lawton was a four-term state representative and then a state judge for 27 years. His father was also a judge — a probate judge. But his son Patrick did not deserve to be hired as a probation officer, prosecutors are trying to establish.

The younger Lawton was only hired, says the government, because his father made phone calls to friends and politicians asking for a recommendation from Senate President Therese Murray aimed at tipping the scales and winning favor with O’Brien.

“You know how the system works don’t you, Mr. Lawton?” prosecutor Fred Wyshak snapped. “And you exploited it to you and your son’s benefit.”

“I tried to,” Judge Lawton answered.

Lawton and defense lawyers tried to establish that “tipping the scales” is what job recommendations are meant to do. And what friends and networks and relatives normally do.

The defense tried to establish that Lawton was highly qualified for the job. He had a law degree and training from the police academy. But he had been fired by a district attorney’s office, failed the bar twice and was arrested on heroin charges two years after being hired.

Under questioning from the prosecution, Patrick Lawton called himself a “recovering heroin addict.”

At the time he applied for the job, Lawton had a problem with prescription drugs, his father testified, but had it under control.

“Would you agree that narcotics problems do not make a good probation officer?” asked the prosecutor.

“Absolutely,” Judge Lawton answered.

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