UPDATE: Sen. Murray's aide names names in trial

Cape and Islands District Attorney O'Keefe named in testimony


Defense claims patronage hiring is the norm in Massachusetts

UPDATE: For the first time Monday, defense attorneys in the state probation department trial presented evidence to the jury about specific court officer hires who had received political backing, part of the defense's argument that patronage hiring is the norm in Massachusetts.

Prosecutors showed evidence Monday that Senate President Therese Murray's office steered probation jobs toward applicants with the backing of former Senate Majority Leader Fred Berry, Cape and Islands District Attorney Michael O'Keefe, and one woman whose main aim was to boost her pension.

Later in the day, defense attorney Christine DeMaso presented evidence that a parallel patronage system was in place at the Trial Court in the hiring of court officers, who are court security personnel. Norfolk County Sheriff Michael Bellotti's sister and the father of Murray's former chief of staff, Rick Musiol, both received jobs as court security with backing from Murray's office.

In a legal filing, prosecutors protested that the hiring of court officers fell short of the bribery, fraud and racketeering they allege took place at the probation department, and even if Trial Court leaders committed crimes "two wrongs do not make a right."

Former Probation Commissioner John O'Brien and two of his former deputies, Elizabeth Tavares and William Burke III, are on trial for racketeering and fraud, for allegedly operating a patronage system camouflaged as a merit-based hiring system.

"If we could help get someone's foot in the door, we would do that," said Murray aide Francine Gannon, who agreed with O'Brien's attorney DeMaso she did the "exact same thing for people applying for court officer jobs."

Testifying with immunity from prosecution, Gannon said she had done the same work when she handled constituent services for U.S. Speaker of the House Thomas "Tip" O'Neill, Congressman Joseph Moakley and Senate President Robert Travaglini.

Gannon, who still works in the president's office, said she also helps constituents with unemployment, Social Security and immigration issues, as well as jobs in other state agencies, such as the Registry of Motor Vehicles. She also said she handled cases of job-seekers referred to her by other senators.

Judge William Young has previously said that patronage alone is not a crime, and prosecutors earlier presented evidence that scores were changed and lists of finalists were expanded to ensure that the candidate with political backing won the job - regardless of his or her qualifications.

"You never thought that anyone was guaranteed to get a job?" asked DeMaso.

"No," Gannon replied.

Patricia Mosca, a Department of Transitional Assistance employee, first approached Gannon around October 2007, seeking a job that would boost her pension.

"She just was rambling about how she wanted to increase her pension. She figured this all out," said Gannon, who said Mosca was a frequent visitor around that time. Emails show that Mosca at one point raised the notion of bringing in cheesecake, though Gannon said, "You do not have to bring anything but your presence."

Later Gannon informed Murray that Mosca would be selected for a probation officer post at Plymouth District Court and said Mosca knows that Murray's office was the reason she was selected.

A February 2007 letter from O'Keefe spurred the office on behalf of Melissa Melia, who wound up receiving a job as a probation officer at the Plymouth District Court.

"Her father Lt. Robert J. Melia Massachusetts State Police has worked with me for over twenty years as a state police detective assigned to the Cape & Islands District Attorney's Office," O'Keefe wrote. "He is now commander of that unit."

In August 2008, Gannon received a call from Berry's chief of staff about Antonio Mataragas, who wanted a job as a probation officer at Peabody District Court. In a note she made to herself, Gannon wrote, then Sen. Steven Baddour "has a horse in race." Mataragas was successful.

Gannon previously testified about her helping Patrick Lawton, part of a political Brockton family, receive a job at the Plymouth County Probate & Family Court. He later resigned after a drug arrest. Lawton and his father, a retired state judge, are the next expected witnesses for the prosecution.

In April 2008, Gannon received a message from the Norfolk sheriff on behalf of his sister Patricia Bellotti, the acting chief court officer, who wanted permanent appointment as chief court officer at Dedham District Court.

"I am delighted to offer my enthusiastic support of Patricia Bellotti's candidacy for the position of full-time Chief Court Officer at the Trial Court for Norfolk County Complex," wrote Sen. James Timilty in an April 2008 letter on behalf of Patricia Bellotti. He wrote, "I realize the competition for acceptance is fierce."

Richard Musiol, the father of Rick Musiol, Murray's then chief of staff, sought a court officer position in April 2007, listing his employment as a cook at Leo's Restaurant in Buzzard's Bay. In January 2008, Gannon said she wrote Musiol is "all set" and would be "assigned in Wareham."

Prosecutors have attempted to preclude the defense from introducing evidence about court officer hiring when cross-examining Gannon, arguing in a court filing that court officer hiring is irrelevant to the case, there is evidence that the Trial Court "placed little, if any, weight on political sponsorship," and there is no evidence that the Trial Court sought to gain through the budgetary process or other legislating by hiring politically connected individuals.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Karin Bell said the intention to influence legislative action is where "mere patronage ends and bribery or gratuity begins," and said the government has evidence that the only reason O'Brien valued Murray's personnel recommendations was "to influence" Murray on budgetary and other matters. Young denied Bell's motion.

After testimony Monday, Young assembled attorneys from either side in the court, and said he is "wrestling" with the notion that the budgetary and legislative consideration O'Brien allegedly sought could be considered bribery under state law - which is part of the racketeering charge.

"In all honesty, I'm wrestling with this," said Young, who said he did not know of a similar state bribery indictment, and said his meeting with attorneys Monday afternoon would be a "preview" of arguments later in the trial.

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