PROBATION TRIAL BRIEFS - TUESDAY, JUNE 24, 2014

STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE

WITNESS: O'BRIEN GESTURED AT STATE HOUSE, DERIDED "PIGS"

Former Probation Commissioner John O'Brien at one point appeared "frustrated" discussing which applicants should be moved along in the hiring process, a former probation personnel official testified Tuesday during O'Brien's ongoing trial in federal court. "They're a bunch of pigs. It's never enough," O'Brien said, according to Janet Mucci, the former human resources chief, who said O'Brien was "pointing to the State House." O'Brien and two of his former deputies are on trial for allegedly rigging the hiring process to shuttle jobs to people with the backing of state lawmakers and others.

JUDGE REJECTS MISTRIAL SOUGHT OVER ANSWERING TAPES

The judge overseeing the trial of three former probation officials has denied a defense motion for a mistrial that was based on the argument a personnel director's answering machine messages were improperly admitted as evidence. A separate motion for a mistrial, based on discussion among prosecution witnesses, is still pending. Judge William Young said he would revisit the issue when it is time for motions on a directed verdict - where Young could direct the jury to make a particular verdict - which will occur after the prosecution rests its case.


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After the prosecution completed its examination of Janet Mucci, the probation department's retired human resources director, defense attorney Christine DeMaso argued that a mistrial should be declared because Mucci was not a co-conspirator, a necessary designation for her answering machine messages to be played in court. Young had previously said that if Mucci is not a co-conspirator, the admission of the audio would be grounds for a mistrial, and he rejected prosecutor Karin Bell's arguments that the tapes themselves - where she can be heard instructing a probation official what candidates to favor and why - could be the basis for her designation as a co-conspirator. While Mucci said she didn't recall leaving those messages, she said she talked with former Probation Commissioner John O'Brien about his reasons for favoring certain candidates, knew that names were being passed down and played a role in the process beyond her job as manager of the personnel department, Bell argued.

PROBATION WITNESS GRILLED OVER DISCUSSIONS, TEMPER

While attorneys awaited word on whether discussions between witnesses would merit some action by the judge in the probation trial, defense attorney John Amabile spent Monday morning accusing former probation official Ed Dalton of holding resentments against one of the defendants, not knowing a basic aspect of court procedure and having a hot temper. "I have a temper," said Dalton, recalling that after John O'Brien, the former commissioner, told him he would not be promoted to deputy commissioner he "had a frank and honest discussion" with O'Brien. During the talk, Dalton testified, he used a curse word and O'Brien conceded that the job had gone to Fran Wall, now a key prosecution witness, because Wall was O'Brien's friend. Dalton said he was unaware of what witness sequestration means and said he discussed the "logistics" of the trial with Ellen Slaney, a former probation official and friend, during her multi-day testimony, and with Richard O'Neil, another former probation official and friend who testified, and Ronald Corbett, who became acting probation commissioner after O'Brien was ousted in 2010. "Sir, how long have you worked for the Trial Court?" asked Amabile. Dalton said more than 30 years. Amabile said, "And you want to claim you don't know what a witness sequestration order is?" Dalton said, "No the specifics of that term." Witnesses are generally barred from discussing the case with one another, and after learning that Dalton discussed aspects of the trial with other witnesses, defense attorneys have pushed for a mistrial. Amabile also accused Dalton of describing former Chief Justice of Administration and Management John Irwin as "a godfather" to O'Brien in a meeting with the FBI.

- A. Metzger/SHNS