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April 25, 2013

Ex-Mass. probation chief faces new federal charges

BOSTON (AP) — The former commissioner of the Massachusetts Probation Department, acquitted this month of state corruption charges, is facing federal bribery charges.

A federal indictment handed up Wednesday charges John O'Brien with 17 counts of bribing state legislators by giving jobs to their supporters, friends, and relatives in exchange for boosts to his department's budget and other political favors.

The indictment says O'Brien and two deputies did "conspire, confederate, and agree to give jobs and salaries" to candidates promoted by state legislators "in order to influence" them.

The indictment alleges O'Brien bribed Senate President Therese Murray at least three times by giving jobs to people she recommended, according to The Boston Globe (http://b.globe.com/ZQCMJf ). O'Brien allegedly bribed House Speaker Robert DeLeo at least 10 times, in part to help him as he began his successful campaign to become House speaker in 2009.

There are at least 21 legislators, along with Lt. Gov. Timothy Murray, who allegedly received bribes from O'Brien in the form of probation jobs, according to the indictment.

No legislators were indicted.

O'Brien's attorneys did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

Murray, D-Plymouth, had no comment. DeLeo, D-Winthrop, said in a statement that he had done nothing wrong, only recommended properly qualified applicants and "never traded jobs for votes."

O'Brien resigned in 2011 after an independent counsel found he oversaw a rigged hiring system in which the politically connected got department jobs over more qualified candidates.

The 56-page indictment expands the racketeering charges originally brought against O'Brien and his deputies. Lawyers for O'Brien's codefendants downplayed the significance of the new accusations, saying prosecutors are repackaging the same charges.

The defendants will face all the charges in a single trial at a date to be determined.

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