Very strange goings-on at the U.S. Attorney’s office these days, don’t you think? Let’s take a look at some recent high-profile cases.
|Defendant||(Alleged) conduct at issue||Position held at relevant time||Punishment|
|Michael McLaughlin||Concealing his inflated salary for at least four years by $140,000 per year||Director of Chelsea Housing Authority||“Little if any prison time” (plea deal still pending) – “prosecutors would agree to a $4,000 fee as well as 24 months of supervised release.”|
|Chuck Turner||Taking a $1,000 bribe||Boston City Councillor||Three years in federal prison|
|Dianne Wilkerson||Taking $23,500 in bribes||State Senator||Three and one half years in federal prison|
|Sal DiMasi||Taking $65,000 in kickbacks||Speaker of Mass. House of Representatives||Eight years in federal prison|
|John J. O’Brien||Running a “rigged hiring system” at the probation department||Commissioner of Probation||Up to 20 years in prison per count (pending)|
|Aaron Swartz||Downloading copyright-protected journal articles||Private citizen||Faced possible sentence of up to 35 years; committed suicide before trial|
See the pattern? Me neither. Now, maybe that is in part a failing of the federal criminal code – different statutes are at issue in some of these cases. Nonetheless, one would think that the amount of money misappropriated in a case would have some bearing on the magnitude of the punishment, yet that seems not to be the case. McLaughlin is alleged basically to have stolen over half a million dollars, yet he is apparently going to walk in exchange for helping Ortiz try to bring down Tim Murray (several letters in today’s Globe take issue with that deal), while DiMasi, Wilkerson and (especially) Turner got years in prison for taking a lot less. It’s still hard to articulate exactly how the allegations against O’Brien rise to the level of a federal crime, to say nothing of a crime meriting two decades in prison. We’ve discussed the Swartz case at length.
And don’t forget the civil forfeiture case Ortiz brought against a motel owner in Tewksbury in which she tried to seize the motel based on a handful of drug transactions that had occurred on the premises over many years. She lost that case badly after generating a good deal of national criticism (and local as well) over how she handled it. It’s interesting that the Tewksbury case, while it was ongoing, garnered national attention from the Washington Post and other national outlets including the AP, but as far as I can tell has never been reported on or editorialized about by the Boston Globe, except for a single Metro story, written by a “correspondent” (i.e., not a staff reporter), that was published after Ortiz lost the case. (To be fair, there was one earlier story in the “North” regional edition of the paper, which readers in Boston proper or in the West or South regions would not likely have seen.)
WBUR aired a report this morning that considers some other, lower-profile cases that have raised questions about how Ortiz is running her office. But I think it’s fair to say that our own EB3 has been trying to call out Ortiz, along with the Globe’s evident fondness for her prior to the Swartz debacle, long before most people, including anyone in the mainstream media, were interested in hearing about it.