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Judge Throws Out Convictions Against City Hall Employees In Boston Calling Extortion Trial

BOSTON (AP) — A federal judge on Wednesday tossed the convictions of two former aides of Boston Mayor Marty Walsh who were charged with bullying music festival organizers into hiring union workers.

Kenneth Brissette, the city's former director of tourism, and Timothy Sullivan, who was chief of intergovernmental affairs, were convicted in federal court in August of conspiring to extort the organizers of the Boston Calling music festival by withholding city permits.

U.S. District Judge Leo Sorokin said in his ruling that he must overturn the jury's guilty verdict because the government failed to prove the existence of a quid pro quo.

Kenneth Brissette
Kenneth Brissette leaves federal court in Boston, May 19, 2016. (Photo credit: John Blanding / The Boston Globe)

"Neither Brissette nor Sullivan received a personal payoff or any other cognizable benefit in connection with the charged conduct," Sorokin wrote in his ruling.

Lawyers for the men applauded the ruling and said their clients are ""extremely gratified to have been acquitted."

"Today's ruling is consistent with our arguments that the evidence in this case did not support the charges brought against them. Simply stated, Mr. Brissette and Mr. Sullivan did nothing that was wrongful," Bill Kettlewell and Sara Silva, who represented Brissette, said in a statement.

It's the second time the government's case against the men has fallen apart.

Timothy Sullivan
Timothy Sullivan, Boston's Chief of Staff of Intergovernmental Affairs (WBZ-TV)

The same judge in 2018 dismissed the charges against Brissette and Sullivan days before the trial was set to begin after prosecutors protested the judge's order that the government prove the two men personally benefited from the hiring of the union workers.

The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals later revived the case.

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.

Lawyers for the mayoral aides argued at trial 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.

U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling said his office is disappointed in the ruling and will review its options.

"An impartial jury, following legal instructions written by the Court, voted unanimously to convict these two men," he said in an emailed statement.

(© Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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