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Boston Calling Extortion Trial: 2 City Hall Officials Found Guilty of Conspiracy, 1 of Extortion

The trial focused on Boston's tourism chief Kenneth Brissette and its head of intergovernmental affairs Timothy Sullivan, who have resigned

Two aides of Boston Mayor Marty Walsh were found guilty of conspiracy to commit extortion on Wednesday after prosecutors accused them of bullying organizers of a music festival into hiring union laborers.

While the city's tourism chief Kenneth Brissette and its head of intergovernmental affairs Timothy Sullivan were both found guilty of conspiracy to commit extortion, Brisette was found guilty of extortion as well, while Sullivan was not.

Family members began to cry in the Boston federal courtroom as the verdict was being read.

"The defense never rests," an attorney for Sullivan said afterward. Both defendants asked the judge to consider a motion for acquittal, which prosecutors will have some time to respond to.

Brisette and Sullivan resigned from their jobs with the city, the mayor's office said Wednesday. They had been on paid leave.

Walsh, who wasn't called to testify during the two-week trial, said he was "surprised and disappointed" after the verdict came down.

"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," Walsh said in a statement. "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."

The jury began deliberating Tuesday, after hearing closing arguments from both sides. The 12-member panel on Wednesday morning asked for the judge's guidance on avoiding the media after the trial is over.

Judge Leo Sorokin had told jurors they need to decide whether Brisette and Sullivan had threatened to inflict "economic harm" on Crash Line, the production company that staged the 2014 Boston Calling festival.

He also said they need to consider whether those threats affected Crash Line's bottom line. The three-day event took place on City Hall Plaza in September 2014 and included about two dozen acts, including The National, Lorde, Nas and The Roots.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Laura Kaplan, in her closing argument, said Tuesday that Brissette and Sullivan had pressured concert organizers into hiring union workers in an effort to "curry favor" with Walsh, a former Democratic state lawmaker and longtime labor union executive.

Federal prosecutors 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 the necessary permits.

Brissette and Sullivan's lawyers called on former Police Commissioner William Evans.

Evans, who stepped down last year to head up security at Boston College, testified he had a testy meeting with concert promoters ahead of the event that had nothing to do with hiring union workers.

He said he wanted to impose restrictions on alcohol sales on the festival grounds following reports of excessive drinking and minors drinking alcohol during the prior Boston Calling festival, which had been held that May.

Another former city official also testified that neither of the two men on trial had a say in the entertainment license the festival ultimately received.

The trial came after a federal appeals court earlier this year reversed a 2018 ruling dismissing the case.

The appeals court said Sorokin had misinterpreted the law when he ruled that federal prosecutors would be required to prove the defendants personally benefited from the hiring of union workers.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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