By Andy Metzger
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
BOSTON -- With 4 hours and 45 minutes remaining to finish its case against three former state probation department officials, the prosecution said Wednesday it plans to call current and former House aides, former Rep. Charley Murphy and the wife of Rep. Tom Petrolati.
As the trial that began in early May trundles into July, Judge William Young told attorneys Wednesday he plans to stick with a time limit he set in June that aimed to bring the case to a close.
Young, who had initially expressed skepticism that bribery could be part of the case, said during a post-trial hearing with the jury out of the room that he could see the jury being given the allegation that jobs were offered as bribes to Rep. Robert DeLeo, the current House speaker, and that Kathleen Petrolati's hiring to run an electronic monitoring office in Springfield was a gratuity.
Former Probation Commissioner John O'Brien and two of his former aides, Elizabeth Tavares and William Burke, have pled not guilty. Former probation legislative liaison Ed Ryan said lawmakers were referred to DeLeo's office for filling temporary jobs in the electronic monitoring program to help the Winthrop Democrat with his ultimately successful bid for the speakership.
"You want to call it bribery if it's: you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours," said Young, challenging the prosecution and noting that all state agencies try to "curry favor" with the Legislature.
Young also asked "what conspiracy" former DeLeo aide Leonard Mirasolo was part of.
"He is aiding and abetting Mr. DeLeo," Wyshak said.
"I follow that," said Young.
DeLeo has said there was "never" a jobs-for-votes arrangement.
Prosecutor Fred Wyshak said the prosecution was only asking for between four and six hours more on top of the nearly five hours the prosecution has yet to use up.
"We've got the same constraints," argued defense attorney John Amabile. He said the defense didn't like being on a time limit either, but for the sake of the jury, which is down to 14 people, the judge should stick to his plan. He said, "They're tired. We've lost two of them."
Young said he is inclined to stick to the time limit, but he will hold a hearing Monday after receiving a document under temporary seal that lays out in greater detail the witnesses the prosecution plans to call and the testimony prosecutors expect them to give.
"I expect the government will be resting next week," Young said before the jury entered Wednesday. He has previously told the jury they are on track for beginning deliberations mid-July.
Pressed by Young to say how he would spend the remaining hours if he sticks to his ruling, Wyshak said it is "absolutely necessary" to call top DeLeo aide Toby Morelli and James Kennedy, the House counsel, who the prosecutor said would say that Petrolati introduced a measure funding the position that was later filled by his wife.
Wyshak said Morelli will talk about how in 2006 he attended a meeting where O'Brien lobbied regarding the ability for the chief justice of the trial court to be able to transfer money in and out of the probation department.
"We think that is sufficient quid pro quo," Wyshak said. Wyshak also said O'Brien met with Kennedy and DeLeo about revamping the trial court.
Wyshak said he planned to call Daniel Toscano, who was an aide to former Speaker Salvatore DiMasi.
Young said he would limit the testimony of Kathleen Petrolati to a discussion of her own qualifications. Petrolati and her lawyer Michael Jennings, of Springfield, attended the proceeding, where prosecutor Robert Fisher said neither her testimony nor the "fruits" of that testimony would be used against her husband.
Fisher also agreed not to question her about the backing she received from former Speaker Tom Finneran when she sought out a job running an electronic monitoring office in Springfield.
Young also raised the possibility he would not submit to the jury the mail fraud charges that Burke is facing, saying the evidence of Burke's involvement in the scheme has been "so peripheral" so far. Burke is also charged with conspiracy to commit racketeering.
Murphy backed DeLeo in his bid to become speaker and was then named by DeLeo as House Ways and Means chairman, before being stripped of that post and opting to leave the House for the private sector.
Last week, arguing against an order they said will unfairly hamper their case, prosecutors said they planned to call Rep. John Rogers, who vied in 2008 with DeLeo for leadership of the House, and DeLeo's godson, Brian Mirasolo, who was allegedly protected and promoted as part of a patronage scheme.