Judge That Oversaw Probation Dept. Takes Stand

NECN's legal editor Mulligan was like a gatekeeper between Probation and final hiring decisions

(NECN: Alison King) - For those who consider the Massachusetts Probation trial political theater, today's witness was a headliner.

Judge Robert Mulligan took the stand for the first time.

He is the former Chief Justice for the Trial Courts which oversaw the Probation Department.

"Judge Mulligan is a critical witness in this case because he is sort of at the epicenter,” said NECN legal editor Randy Chapman.

Chapman said Mulligan was like a gatekeeper between Probation and final hiring decisions. He was responsible for making sure things were done right. But under prosecution questioning, Mulligan described a rigged hiring system at Probation that he had little control over.   

He portrayed defendant John O'Brien, the former Probation Commissioner, as confrontational, competitive, and cozy with legislative leaders. He said O'Brien was quote "elated" about his friend Tom Finneran becoming House Speaker and wanted full control over the hiring process, trying to eliminate the two judges who sat on the hiring panel.

"What the government is attempting to establish is that Jack O'Brien is working if you will for the legislature, putting people in who were less than qualified.   Judge Mulligan is represented that he was trying to push back against that,” Chapman explained.

Chapman said there was tremendous pressure on Mulligan to approve hiring recommendations made by lawmakers to protect his trial court budget, even as the legislature was stripping him of his authority, including his power to move money between budgets.

Chapman says the defense will likely introduce evidence that will show there were similar problems in the trial court, "Which was the sole responsibility of Judge Mulligan and that there were court officers who were hired who were less than qualified."

Judge Mulligan will continue on the stand Wednesday morning, though defense attorneys may have to wait until at least Thursday for their cross examination.  

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