A federal judge has thrown out the convictions of two former aides of Boston Mayor Walsh who were found guilty of conspiracy to commit extortion last summer after prosecutors accused them of bullying organizers of the Boston Calling music festival into hiring union laborers.
Kennetth Brissette, the city's former tourism chief, was found guilty of extortion and conspiracy to commit extortion, and Timothy Sullivan, the former head of intergovernmental affairs, was convicted of conspiracy to commit extortion, back in August of 2019.
In his 90-page ruling Wednesday, Judge Leo Sorokin said he was setting aside the jury's guilty verdicts "based on the government's failure to prove that either man committed the charged offenses." Specifically, he said prosecutors failed to prove the existence of a quid pro quo. "Neither Brissette nor Sullivan received a personal payoff or any other cognizable benefit in connection with the charged conduct."
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Brissette and Sullivan both resigned from their jobs with the city in the wake of their convictions. They had been on paid leave up to that point.
Walsh, who wasn't called to testify during the trial, said afterward that he was "surprised and disappointed" at the verdict.
"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," the mayor said. "I have always believed that their hearts were in the right place. We have taken several measures at the City of Boston to ensure that every employee has the right tools and training to perform at the highest ethical standards, which has always been my expectation."
Following Wednesday's ruling, a spokesman for Walsh said they will be reviewing the decision.
Prosecutors argued that Brissette and Sullivan had pressured organizers of the 2014 Boston Calling Festival into hiring union workers in an effort to "curry favor" with Walsh, a former Democratic state lawmaker and longtime labor union executive. The three-day event took place on City Hall Plaza in September of 2014 and included about two dozen acts, including The National, Lorde, Nas and The Roots.
They said the two men wanted the organizers to hire members of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees and warned that labor unions would likely protest the festival if they refused.
Brissette and Sullivan's lawyers argued that the two men 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.
The production company ultimately hired nine union members and secured all of the necessary permits.
The trial came after a federal appeals court reversed a 2018 ruling by Sorokin dismissing the case.