Lawyers for ex-probation chief, 2 others ask judge to throw out convictions in jobs case

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BOSTON — Former Massachusetts probation commissioner John O'Brien and two deputies are set to argue before a federal judge that their convictions in a job-rigging case should be thrown out or a new trial ordered.

O'Brien was convicted in July of racketeering and mail fraud in a case that focused attention on the patronage culture in state government. Elizabeth Tavares also was convicted of racketeering and mail fraud while the third defendant, William Burke, was found guilty of racketeering conspiracy.

Prosecutors say O'Brien orchestrated a scheme to ensure that highly-coveted jobs in the probation department went to candidates sponsored by powerful state legislators, often at the expense of more qualified candidates.

Defense attorneys on Wednesday plan to ask U.S. District Court Judge William Young, who presided over the six-week jury trial, to issue a judgment of acquittal or set aside the convictions and order a new trial.

In court filings, the defense has contended that the jury received faulty instructions from the judge prior to deliberations, and that evidence presented during the trial was insufficient to warrant the guilty verdicts.

The U.S. Attorney's office, in a response to the defense motions, urged Young not to alter the convictions. Prosecutors said the defendants were making "the same old and tired arguments" offered up during the trial.

Barring a ruling in their favor by the judge, O'Brien, Tavares and Burke face sentencing on Nov. 12.

No legislators were ever charged in the case.

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