Jury Deliberations Begin in Boston Calling Extortion Trial

Two former aides of Boston Mayor Marty Walsh were accused of pressuring music festival organizers into hiring labor workers

The jury began deliberations Tuesday in the trial of two Boston city officials accused of bullying organizers of a music festival into hiring union laborers.

The 12-member jury entered the private discussions after hearing closing arguments from prosecutors and defense attorneys in Boston federal court. They recessed without reaching a verdict and are expected to resume deliberations in Boston federal court Wednesday.

Judge Leo Sorokin told jurors they need to decide whether the city's tourism chief Kenneth Brissette and its head of intergovernmental affairs Timothy 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.

Walsh wasn't called to testify during the two week trial, but 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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