It isn’t often you have two columnists writing about the same subject on the same day who claim to have roots in South Boston. Both hold Whitey Bulger and the wrongfully incarcerated FBI Agent John Connolly in high disdain. One, Peter Gelzinis of the Boston Herald, has the luxury of being able to tell things straight up; the other, Kevin Cullen is fettered to the Boston Globe’s intimate relationship to the matter and spouts the company line.
What prompted their columns was the decision by Judge F. Dennis Saylor, IV to recuse himself from handling the criminal trial of the probation officer John O’Brien and his two assistants. You know the background of the case – the Globe does a Spotlight Report and the U.S. Attorney in Boston dutifully follows up with an indictment. Once that happens the Globe becomes a cheer leader for the U.S. attorneys office.
Judge Saylor’s decision to step down was based on his relation with Judge Timothy Hillman and possibly others who may be called to appear as witnesses for the defense. Defense counsel have listed him and other judges and legislators as witnesses they will call to show that it was a routine practice in Massachusetts (and I suggest everywhere else in the United States) for people to write letters or make calls on behalf of friends, relatives or others who they feel would make good candidates for probation positions.
This was never a crime in the past until AUSA Fred Wyshak decided to make it into one. The strange thing about his actions is none of the judges or legislators who made the recommendations are charged. You’d think that those whose instigated an act, which is deemed criminal, would also be charged. But as we see, that would have wiped out most of the judiciary and legislature so that was not feasible.
Nevertheless, the Globe had demanded charges and the U.S. Attorney felt an obligation to please it. Thus it became only the people who relied upon their recommendations and made the hires based on their judgment that a judge or legislator would not recommend someone who would turn out to be unqualified. There’s a book written by Albert A. Seedman called Chief. Seedman was the first Jewish chief of police in New York City. He tells how he got his detective badge through the influence of what he called his “godfather.” He suggested the system of having people speak for you to get a position or a promotion was much better than civil service examinations because no one would recommend someone who might turn out to be a dud nor would a person recommended want to embarrass the “godfather” whose help got him the position.
Wyshak’s novel idea was to charge that O’Brien and his two co-defendants were engaged in a criminal enterprise running the probation system. He said their crime was mail fraud; that is, they sent out letters of rejection to people who were better candidates than those they hired. This made it into a racketeering case where the defendants faced 20 years; he’d then, as is the U.S. Attorney in Boston’s want, increased the penalty with a superseding indictment of new charges with increased penalties when it appeared the defendants would not cave in like it did in the Aaron Swartz case. He did not allege that the defendants hired or promoted candidates who were not qualified but there were in his judgment better candidates they could have hired.
Gelzinis is straight forward. He labels O’Brien’s trial for what it is: “the patronage trial.” He tells how Judge Saylor “ran into a buzz saw of defense lawyers who raised numerous body-blow questions that connected him to the same goo of patronage that allegedly tars their clients.” That, of course, is their job; and, the best way to defend their clients is to show that what they were doing was participating in a system-wide free for all where no one thought twice about making recommendations for jobs. The thrust of their defense is that if judges were participating how then is it criminal.
Cullen on the other hand has to give the Globe’s version. He distorts what is happening and wrongfully writes: “O’Brien used a fraudulent system to ensure unqualified people got those jobs.” No one, except Cullen and possibly others in theGlobe, has accused O’Brien of hiring unqualified people nor did he. Even Wyshak in his attempt to please only asserts he did not hire the most qualified.
Cullen summary of the case is: “Was [O'Brien] actually corrupt in doling out jobs to the politically connected, or does it just appear that way?” Can you figure out what that means? Isn’t the correct equation: “was O’Brien corrupt or was he not?” You see how the Globe can’t let go. It wants people to believe that if O’Brien is acquitted he still must be corrupt since he appears that way.
Cullen points out defense counsel used various tactics attempting to get judge Saylor off the case and points to his statement that “defense could have raised the Hillman issue two years ago.” This parrots the Boston U.S. attorney who noted her disappointment in the delay “caused by the defense’s untimely recusal motion”. Cullen said Judge Saylor felt “bullied” by defense counsel. He mocks the list of defense witnesses saying it is like an “invitation list to a “time” . . . at Pier 4.”
On and on unlike telling it straight like Gelzinis, Cullen presents the negativeGlobe view of O’Brien and his lawyers. I’d suggest you not look to Cullen for any objective coverage of the matter. He, too, has too eat and that means sticking to the company line.
Of course, Cullen could not just let his animosity toward O’Brien rest there. For some weird reason he took the opportunity to take a shot at Billy Bulger. He notes Fred Wyshak who is prosecuting O’Brien also was involved in Whitey’s trial. Then, totally out of the blue, he sleazily writes: “Just for the record, let’s stipulate that Whitey Bulger’s brother Billy practiced patronage on a scale that makes O’Brien and everybody else look like amateurs. They don’t call the MBTA Mr. Bulger’s Transit Authority for nothin’.” (Note the dropping of the ‘g’ from the word ‘nothing’. It is the high brow Cullen and the Globe’s way of suggesting that South Boston’s blue collar class are beneath its readership.)
As I’ve long noted it is the Globe’s policy to tarnish Billy Bulger at every opportunity. They know he can’t fight back. So like any bully it takes cheap shots at him. Cullen and the Globe know no shame.