BOSTON — Federal prosecutors are dropping mail fraud charges related to two probation hires in their ongoing trial against three former probation officials.
After a sick juror led to the trial’s postponement until Wednesday, prosecutor Fred Wyshak told Judge William Young he would not be pursuing two of the mail fraud counts.
More: O’Brien/Probation Case
Select trial coverage:
- 7/28: Prosecution Strategy Criticized
- 7/24: Former Probation Commissioner Guilty Of Racketeering, Mail Fraud
- 7/16: As O’Brien Trial Winds Down, DeLeo Again Front And Center
- 7/14: Case Will Go To Jury
- 7/11: Prosecution, Defense Rest
- 7/10: Speaker DeLeo Scrutinized, But Not Charged, In Corruption Trial
- 6/11: Former Official Says He Was Given O’Brien’s Picks Before Interviews
- 5/21: Father Of Probation Officer, A Judge, Testifies
- 5/16: Top Aide To Murray Testifies To Role In Probation Hiring
- 5/14: Former Top Aide Says Probation Department Hired Politically Connected
- 5/13: Official Says He Signed Off On ‘Woefully Inadequate’ Job Applicant
- 5/12: Official Offers Inside Account Of Rigged Hiring
- 5/9: Co-Defendant Distances Herself From The Boss
Former Probation Commissioner John O’Brien and two of his former deputies, Elizabeth Tavares and William Burke III, face 10 counts of mail fraud and one count each of conspiracy and racketeering. The three are accused of covering up a patronage hiring scheme, where jobs were doled out to politically connected applicants, maintaining a facade of a merit-based hiring system.
The prosecution’s decision does not mean the charges are dismissed, though it will allow the prosecution to more swiftly move into the broad allegation of racketeering. Prosecutors will no longer attempt to prove that fraud was committed when Anthony Mataragas was appointed from Middlesex Juvenile Court to Peabody District Court.
Mataragas was allegedly sponsored by Senate President Therese Murray and former Senate Majority Leader Fred Berry. Prosecutors are also dropping their mail fraud charge related to Lisa Martin obtaining a job at Worcester County Probate and Family Court. Martin was sponsored by a state representative, according to the indictment.
Young has required prosecutors to prove the mail fraud charges before moving on to prove the broader charge that the three operated as a criminal enterprise, committing crimes of mail fraud and bribery to keep the enterprise in business. Young said he would tell the jury about the dropped charges when he gives them his “final charge” before deliberations.
The jury will have to sort out the facts of a sprawling case that involves hiring over the past decade, involving state lawmakers and members of the judiciary. Defense attorneys are attempting to prove the patronage scheme was widespread and well known, and therefore no fraud was committed.