Last Friday Gail Garinger a former juvenile court judge testified that she sat for two days on a board that interviewed candidates for probation jobs in the juvenile court system. She characterized the process as a sham. She said she would not go through it again. Apparently her input was not highly welcome because the other members of the three person panel had already been told who were the favored candidates by either O’Brien or one of his deputies who are on trial with him.
Garinger is just another in the long list of witnesses who have testified to date who tell us that much of the hiring in the probation system was done through connections – there were lots of people who got jobs because they had contacts who could put in a “good word” for them with probation commissioner O’Brien. The jury has to sit an listen to this testimony that is really not relevant to any crime. The hiring of people based on connections is not illegal but it doesn’t leave a good taste in anyone’s mouth.
The way the case is reported in the newspapers it appears the prosecutor wants to fill the jurors with horror by continually pointing out that O’Brien was playing favorites. He is not charged with taking any money; the racketeering indictment charges him with mail fraud. The fraud was notifying candidates by U.S. mail who were more qualified that they did not get the jobs. O’Brien faces 20 years in the can for this.
Had O’Brien asked the candidates who did not get the jobs to come back into his office and verbally informed them of this fact, he would not have been charged with that crime. That shows the extent to which the prosecutor had to reach into his bag of tricks to find a crime that O’Brien committed. But you’d never know any of this if you read the media reports on the trial.
Reading these reports you would see over and over again that O’Brien had in place a system where people with political or judicial backing got jobs. It was a pretend system. Panels were set up to interview and rate applicants but those on the panel had little to say in the process as the chosen ones had been picked prior to the interviews.
I know this stinks. I’m aware of its unfairness as anyone else but it isn’t criminal. If it was then all the co-conspirators with O’Brien, that is those politicians and judges who made the recommendations and pushed their own candidates should also have been charged. This is the way things are done in the Commonwealth from the appointment of judges down to the appointment of janitors or custodians.
It is not just in our fair state but throughout the nation. President Obama like all previous presidents appoint the people to ambassadorships and many boards because of their monetary help in getting him elected; U.S. senators and representatives recommend people for judgships down to appointments at the military academies based on friendship and other relations with people who have helped them; judges themselves are always reaching out to others to get their family members or friends a job. It happens in the public sector; it also happens in the private sector.
It happens in hiring coaches in pro football where the NFL had to institute the Rooney Rule to give African-Americans a shot at coaching jobs. It’s the reason behind Affirmative Action where many were shut out because they weren’t part of the grape-vine through which many have found jobs. It’s an endemic problem that until O’Brien was indicted was never criminal.
It is certainly unfair to those who don’t have the connections. When the bright light of day is shined on the practice of patronage many people find it repulsive. When you have federal prosecutors parading up to two months of witnesses telling over and over again the same thing it is clear the goal is to befuddle the jurors; to make them see that the system of patronage is unfair to those without connections; and to convince them something should be done to stop it from continuing.
After a while the jury will turn on the defendants because of their dislike for what they participated in. Its only recourse to show its disgust is to find them guilty because it wants them to be punished. It is a tawdry way to run a prosecution by putting tons of evidence of shoddy actions that are not criminal and seeking to get a conviction by prejudicing the jury against the defendants by feigning outrage at what’s done every day.
By the end of the trial the jury won’t believe O’Brien is a nice guy. They’ll also know that a lot of persons who were qualified for the job didn’t get hired because others had better pull. But it’s not a crime not to be nice nor to do favors for politicians and judges. The only question that remains is will the jury see through the miasma in which the prosecution will envelope O’Brien and recognize his actions though off-putting are not criminal.