The state"s embattled former probation commissioner asked afederal court judge Friday to approve the use of public funds topay for two lawyers to defend him against racketeering and fraudcharges, the latest high-profile defendant to ask for taxpayermoney for his defense. John J. O"Brien asked US Magistrate Judge Timothy Hillman toapprove the use of public funds to pay for Paul Flavin, whom hecalled his longtime lawyer, who has represented him in statehearings. O"Brien, 55, also asked that Hillman approve the use of asecond lawyer, Anthony M. |
Traini of Providence. Flavin told Hillmanat a hearing Friday that Traini is more versed in white-collarcriminal law at the federal court level than he is. He saidTraini"s specialty would be needed in the high-profile case.Both lawyers are not on an approved list of federal defenders. Hillman took the matter under advisement.
He said the request toappoint two lawyers who are not on the court"s list oflawyers was extraordinary. Flavin said he would have sought the court"s approval beforehe started to defend O"Brien, but that the federal indictmentand arraignment of his client in March was too swift for him to gobefore the court beforehand. "Mr. O"Brien didn"thave a lot of places to turn at the time,"" Flavinsaid. "I respected him and wanted him to have adequaterepresentation."" Assistant US Attorney Fred Wyshak said he could not address whetherO"Brien was eligible for a court-appointed lawyer withoutreviewing his finances, which Hillman did in a private hearing.
But Wyshak argued that O"Brien should not be eligible for asecond lawyer, regardless of his financial status. He also saidO"Brien should not have been able to hand-pick his ownpublicly funded lawyer: The government has a federal publicdefender office, and the court has established an additional panelof lawyers who could be appointed to represent clients. "Ithink it"s inappropriate to hand-pick an attorney and comebefore the court and say I need some help to pay forhim,"" Wyshak said. O"Brien is the latest high-profile defendant who has askedthe court for a taxpayer-funded lawyer, a controversial butestablished practice in the federal court system.
Peter B. Krupp, of Lurie & Krupp, LLP, and chairman of thefederal Criminal Justice Act Board in Massachusetts, which helpsthe court administer the public defender system, said Friday that aproper system has been established for the appointment of counsel:When appropriate, a case is referred to the public defender"soffice, and in occasions that the office cannot handle the matter,because of a lack of resources or a conflict of interest, a lawyerfrom the panel is chosen. Krupp said that a judge would determine whether a defendant iseligible, based on a disclosure of the defendant"s assets andliabilities. He said there is no standard, because different caseshave different complexities and needs. "It"s a case by case assessment as to whether someonehas enough assets to hire counsel,"" said Krupp, whospoke generally about the process and not aboutO"Brien"s case.
He said that judges have approved public funds for a lawyer who hadalready been retained, but he said that decision would be based onseveral criteria, such as whether it was financially prudent. In recent cases, Salvatore F. DiMasi, a former House speaker, wasappointed a lawyer after hiring him and then later showing thecourt that he could no longer afford his counsel. Organized crime figure James "Whitey"" Bulger wasappointed a taxpayer-funded lawyer, though he told a judge he couldhire his own if the government gave him back the $800,000-plus incash that was seized from his Santa Monica, Calif.
apartment afterhis arrest last June. However, a magistrate judge rejected arequest by Bulger"s lawyer to have a second lawyer appointed. Flavin said Friday that he has defended O"Brien since a GlobeSpotlight series in 2010 exposed a system of patronage within theProbation Department, with O"Brien at the helm. O"Brien and his two top aides were indicted in federal courton charges that they ran a rigged hiring and promotional systemthat rewarded politically connected candidates. O"Brien also faces bribery and campaign finance violationcharges for allegedly helping to arrange a 2005 fund-raiser forthen-state treasurer Timothy Cahill.
O"Brien"s wifelater got a job in the Lottery Commission, which Cahill oversaw. Flavin said he has spent countless hours combing through anindependent investigator"s report on the patronage hiring,and has met with O"Brien regularly to defend him. "I would suggest, your honor, that we"ve got quite ahead start . .
just so we can protect the interests of Mr.O"Brien,"" he said. Try BostonGlobe.com today and get two weeks FREE.
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