Seriously, what’s up with Carmen Ortiz? Maybe EB3 has been right all along.

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.


29 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. My thoughts exactly

    Mr. McLaughlin should be facing serious jail time. Any proceeds he has left should be taken. His crimes greatly increased the suffering of the weak, poor, and powerless residents of the projects he plundered. I’m tempted to suggest that he should be forced to join them — there are, however, countless folks more deserving of public housing.

    The man deserves to be on the street, homeless and penniless, until he has made complete restitution.

    • What's up, Christopher?

      I’m surprised at your downrate — do you think he should NOT be forced make restitution?

      • Sorry, I got lazy.

        Make restitution, yes. Homeless and penniless is something I would not wish on anyone. I’ve always been ambivalent at best about jail for this type of crime, prefering to save that for those whose physical liberty would endager the safety of the rest of us. Overall the harshness of your comment made me cringe a bit.

        • He worsened the plight of EVERY resident

          His thievery made life immeasurably worse for EVERY resident dependent on the agency he ran. Hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of recent college graduates are on the run from collectors eager to collect their student debt. Their wages are garnished, their bank accounts seized — all too many are left penniless and homeless. Meanwhile this criminal, who stole seven million dollars in public money will apparently keep most of it and not face jail.

          I think that Mr. McLaughlin can and should be forced to live on, say, $15-20K per year — with the rest of his earnings, pension, assets, and everything else taken to repay what he stole. Maybe family or friends will take him in. Seven million dollars is a lot of money to pay back, even at $100K/year (about 70 years worth) — perhaps such a punishment would help Mr. McLaughlin and others gain a better appreciation for both the value of money they steal as well as its impact on their victims.

        • The luxury of white-collar theft

          Trusted, educated, and (mostly white) middle and upper class professionals are able to steal vast sums without knocking anybody down or brandishing a gun. Does that make their crimes less deserving of prison than the homeless guy who tries to rob a bank with a threatening note? I understand your concerns about violence, but the idea of letting all white-collar thieves walk with probation or merely pay fines makes me cringe a bit. Many of these types of criminals already have had plenty of opportunities and advantages, making their offenses less understandable than those of the poor and desperate.

          • Those fines ought to be pretty hefty...

            …amounting to at least the amount involved in the crime. The persons named in this post ought to be forever barred from public employment or political office. Prison overcrowding is also a concern and progressives often lament the high incarceration rate in this country. So from a resource standpoint I want to save prison for the dangerous.

  2. I think the pattern may have something to do with

    the political connections of the defendants, and the pattern probably extends far beyond Ortiz. In the meantime, as Senator Warren pointed out, when was the last time any of these prosecutors went after the big banks?

    Do we have to go all the way back to Enron to find vigorous prosecutions of private-sector executives?

  3. Carmen Ortiz is really

    a menace to society. It astounds me that she still has a job. Where is the tar and feather when you need it?

    RyansTake   @   Wed 20 Feb 1:16 PM
    • menace to society?

      So we’re now advocating for corruption?

      • That's not what he said.

        There is a case to be made it seems for prosecutorial overreach on her part. He is not advocating for corruption anymore than one who thinks that we should rethink the war on drugs is advocating for narcotics orgies.

        • that statement was the overreach ...

          Carmen Ortiz is really a menace to society. It astounds me that she still has a job. Where is the tar and feather when you need it?

          You’re defending that? It’s just dumb. Sorry if you don’t like it, but that’s what it is. The post in general skews the facts, when it get highlighted people get upset.

          Reality based folks.

          • not an overreach at all

            she prosecutes people literally to death

            she tries to steal motels from families

            she let’s one of the scummiest people in Massachusetts off nearly Scot-Free

            Meanwhile, she hasn’t gone after a single bank for fleecing America, when so many are based in these parts.

            and on and on and on.

            Yes, she’s a menace. That’s no exaggeration, and firmly based in reality.

            Has she gone after a few corrupt people along the way — and not let them go?

            Even a stopped clock is right twice a day.

            RyansTake   @   Fri 22 Feb 4:32 AM
            • Even a stopped clock is right twice a day.

              That’s two more than your analysis.

              If someone had access to an account of Ortiz overall performance which compares all cases, how many got thrown out. Not cherry picked bullshit then we could get a better idea.

              But this is stupid. Just keepin’ it real.

              • You're right that more data would be useful

                Unfortunately I’m not sure there’s an easy way to get that data. An analysis of every case she’s prosecuted, and every plea deal she’s cut, would certainly be a time-consuming endeavor. On the other hand, it’s natural for both the general public and the media to compare “high-profile” cases and their outcomes. As something of an aspiring politician, I’m sure Ortiz knows that she will be mostly judged on the cases people actually hear about. So I don’t think it’s necessarily unfair to compare and contrast these cases in the absence of a more complete accounting.
                More importantly, I think I may have beaten Ernie to the dumping-on-Ortiz party, with this apparently chopped-off post from November 2009: Ortiz off to a bad start? :)

              • Cherry picked bullshit?

                So, causing the death of someone is cherry picking? We should negate something like that because she maybe sort of got some bad person off the street some other time?

                Going after a family’s livelihood is cherry picking?

                Not going after any of the banks is cherry picking?

                These are not cherry-picking examples. They’re examples of things people can’t and shouldn’t be forgiven for.

                I don’t care how many good things she may or may not have done — it really doesn’t matter.

                It doesn’t make up for being so overzealous in her ‘job’ that she forces a known suicide risk to commit suicide.

                It doesn’t make up for the fact that she tried to steal a family’s financial income in the motel that they had in their name for generations.

                It certainly doesn’t make up for the fact that she failed this state and this country by not aggressively seeking action against the very banks that have destroyed hundreds of thousands of lives in Massachusetts and millions upon millions across the country.

                She has failed this country. It is time for her to move on.

                RyansTake   @   Fri 22 Feb 2:01 PM
                • Simplistic, naive

                  is what goes through my mind when reading your comments.

                  A full accounting of performance is something you dismissed because you read a couple of articles?

                  If only life were as simple as you describe, a loss of life is tragic, the impact on family is enormous, but to pinpoint this squarely on Ortiz shows me a real lack of understanding of depression.

                  This is not some juvenile Aaron Schwarz was kewl and the government killed him nonsense. These are real people and an adult review would be nice. Sorry.

                  • wait a minute...

                    I don’t hold the same opinion as you, so therefore I’m “simplistic, naive?” Are you trying to get a reaction out of me, or do you have absolutely, positively no comprehension of how insulting you are? Well, you know what? I’ll give as good as I get.

                    I’ll take my naivity and simplicity over your clear and utter disregard for any of the lives Ortiz has ruined any day. Any day.

                    Psychologists have a word for that clear and utter disregard of other people. They call it sociopathy.

                    Were the world only filled with such simplistic and naive people as me, maybe we wouldn’t have so many other people running around in this world trying to ruin lives, and so many like you who clap and applaud as it happens — chalking up the downtrodden as “a couple articles.”

                    Reading your comments, instead of feeling as though you’re simplistic or naive, I question whether or not you have the empathy to be even having this conversation.

                    By attacking my intelligence, you’ve utterly dismissed any argument I’ve made, instead of trying to analyze it or reason it.

                    You’ve also made it clear that you fundamentally don’t care about any of the people Ortiz and her people have stomped on, and quite frankly, I think that’s detestable.

                    Keep trolling, johnk, and make sure to remember to insult everyone who disagrees with you… because god knows, you can’t be the one who’s wrong.

                    Then dismiss their points with strawmen. You’re clearly good at it.

                    (ie suggesting I think Ortiz is completely to blame, when I NEVER SAID THAT or equating the death and attempted theft of livelihood to some kind of statistics read in newspapers).

                    Maybe, if you do it long enough, someone won’t actually call you on it. Lucky enough for me, I know how to spot a strawman when I see one… and I won’t let them go.

                    So…. no, I don’t really care that you think we should make a naughty-and-nice list and see which side of that divide is longer for Ortiz, weighing everything all the same.

                    When we give someone like Ortiz the kind of power we do, I think that’s such an awesome responsibility that she doesn’t get three strikes or three thousand — like you may want to give her.

                    She gets ONE strike. She has swung and missed, and it was a whiff. She’s got to be gone.

                    Ruining lives, attempting to ruin lives and not standing up for the lives of people who have been ruined, like those who have been fleeced by banks or by this schmuck from Chelsea, is well more than enough for us all to rise up and demand this failed District Attorney be fired.

                    If you don’t agree with that, because you seemingly don’t think all these people are worth their weight in water, or printing ink, I suggest you get the hell out of the way, because this shit is going down. It’s happening. We’re not waiting for the next life Ortiz decides to ruin, or the next life-ruiner she decides to spare. It’s not happening.

                    And the next time you read someone saying something you disagree with, because they don’t think people should be so easily dismissed as Ortiz is wont to do? I suggest you not try to utterly dismiss them, either. The irony is evident, and they may just fight back.

                    RyansTake   @   Fri 22 Feb 9:09 PM
  4. This chart reminds me of what Matt Taibbi said about Tom Friedman .

    Friedman had made a connection between the price of oil and the amount of democracy in Arab countries. Taibbi pointed out emphatically that drawing conclusions from three or four cherry-picked data points is silly.
    There are a lot of things not to like about most of the cases on the chart. But why would you compare the amount of the bribe paid to Wilkerson, for example, with the amount of salary paid to McLaughlin? And why would you compare possible sentences to actual sentences?
    This chart is to data what Scott Brown’s tweet was to words.

    • "And why would you compare possible sentences to actual sentences?"

      Because the people in the “possible sentences” category have not been sentenced. So, there’s that.

      • Everyone on that chart faced a possible sentence at one time.

        Why not compare all the possible sentences? But don’t just put down numbers from two different categories and then act like it’s a big surprise that you can’t find a pattern.
        It’s like you put up a chart comparing hat sizes, but instead of hat sizes for everyone you put down some hat sizes and the rest shoe sizes (They aren’t wearing hats. So, there’s that.) And then announce that these numbers don’t make sense, so, maybe EB3 is on to something.

        • Fine Bob,

          let’s just stick with the sentences we know about: 8 years for Sal, 3.5 for Wilkerson, 3 for Turner, and 0 for McLaughlin. That make sense to you?

          • because McLaughlin is going to flip, that's why ...

            and that is not something invented by Ortiz. If there is something bigger going on we need to get to the bottom of it.

            Agreed that Chuck Turner’s sentence was harsh, did piss off the judge? Who knows, but Ortiz didn’t do the sentencing and Turner took the bribe, should have they not prosecuted the bribe? Come on.

            Bottom line, I don’t have pity for any of them; DiMasi, Wilkerson, and Turner, they are the problem on Beacon Hill that needs to get cleaned up.

            I’m not going to go after someone who cleaning up the mess, and it is a mess.

            • Flip?

              Normally, when you “flip” someone, you want to do so to go after the person who ruined more lives, not less. It seems to me that McLaughlin ruined a lot more lives for the kinds of people who needed public housing than the alleged person he’s going to ‘flip’ on.

              Moreover, plenty of prosecutors have “flipped” people who faced prison sentences that would have lasted for many years without actually eliminating all prison time. Maybe it would have been worth it if to “flip” McLaughlin if he would have at least spent a year in prison… but 0? His sins — IMO, anyway — are bigger than Turner, Wilkerson and DiMasi combined.

              RyansTake   @   Fri 22 Feb 4:36 AM
              • What happened to the residents in Chelsea public housing was bad . . .

                but nothing compared to what happened to the residents of Watuppa Heights. The perpetrators of that atrocity are not only still at large, but still respected members of the progressive community.
                And the victims of the state drug lab disaster, I bet, would happily trade places with McLaughlin’s victims. Ditto for the victims of the state’s failure to regulate pharmacies.
                Hey, that makes four data points–enough for my own chart.

          • As Taibbi said about Friedman

            “If you’re going to draw a line that measures the level of “freedom” across the entire world and on that line plot just four randomly-selected points in time. . . —well, what the fuck? What can’t you argue, if that’s how you’re going to make your point?”
            I should point out that Friedman came up with four data points; you have only three. That’s right, David, you are 25% lazier than Thomas Friedman.

  5. EB3 Correct on Ortiz...all along...

    US Attorney Carmen Ortiz and her office are a sorry excuse for a “justice” system…headline grabbing (and reputation destroying) investigations and hydrant-like leaks to favored Globe reporters to fuel public interest…shameful…McLaughlin gamed the system for decades to expand his pay and sucked up to politicians from both sides of the political aisle. Murray is just another victim in a long line of pols McLaughlin used without their knowledge to make himself look powerful…that includes Boston City Councilor Steve Murphy, former GOP State Rep Richard Tisei and former State Senator Steve Baddour…
    McLaughlin deserves a tough sentence and should not be given a deal of any kind…nada…he is scum…I am grateful to the judges who are speaking out about the nonsense going on with Carmen Ortiz and I am glad the Congress is going to investigate her office. Enough is enough.

  6. Okay, I'll bite.

    “Murray is just another victim in a long line of pols McLaughlin used without their knowledge . . . .”
    I’m willing to give Murray the benefit of the doubt, and I won’t be surprised if it turns out that he did nothing illegal.
    But he must have had some idea of why he called McLaughlin so many times. It can’t all be butt dialing.

  7. Not law, not truth, not justice, not the American way.

    As with other political jobs the purpose of the position becomes centered on the incumbent and the political ambitions for other prizes. Haven’t we seen this often in cases where prosecution makes up their stories from whole cloth? Football playes and gang rape, Fells Acre Daycare and the like feeding media to enflame public hysteria? Show business replaces law, civilization.

    I get a feeling when I see these cases that there are lists of people in some prosecutors’ files that await the day when they will be noted and considered ripe for legal purpose. Simply to satisfy the political career of a prosecutor.

    It’s a dirty business. I won’t count Ms. Ortiz out for Governor…

    “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?” –Juvenal

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