Boston mayor’s aides convicted of conspiring to extort
BOSTON (AP) — Two members of Boston Mayor Marty Walsh’s administration were convicted Wednesday of conspiring to extort the organizers of a music festival by pressuring them to hire union labor.
Kenneth Brissette, the city’s director of tourism, and Timothy Sullivan, chief of intergovernmental affairs, were convicted in federal court in Boston of Hobbs Act conspiracy.
Brissette was also found guilty of Hobbs Act extortion while Sullivan was acquitted of that charge.
The men bullied the organizers of the 2014 Boston Calling festival into hiring members of a stagehands union to please Walsh, a former union leader with close ties to organized labor, prosecutors said during the jury trial.
Lawyers for the mayoral aides argued that their clients were simply asking concert promoters to consider hiring unionized workers in order to avoid a potentially embarrassing union protest, complete with a large inflatable rat.
Officials from festival organizers Crash Line testified at trial they feared they would not get the necessary city permits if they didn’t comply with Brissette and Sullivan’s request to hire union stagehands.
Crash Line ultimately hired nine union members and secured the necessary permits.
“Obviously glad to have a resolution, not this resolution and just have to fight a little longer to prove what happened,” Sullivan told the Boston Herald outside of court. “I did nothing wrong.”
Sullivan’s attorney, Thomas Kiley, said “the fight continues.”
The case was not about whether it is good or bad to hire union labor, U.S. Attorney for Boston Andrew Lelling said. “This case is about government officials abusing their authority by trying to force a private business to do something that it is not legally required to do,” he said during a news conference after the verdict.
Walsh was on the witness list, but ultimately was not called to testify.
“I am surprised and disappointed,” Walsh said in a statement. “I have made clear from the beginning that there is only one way to do things in my administration and that is the right way. I have always believed that their hearts were in the right place.”
Sullivan and Brissette face a maximum of 20 years in prison on each conviction. A sentencing date has not been scheduled.