Former probation chief sentenced to 18 months behind bars

BOSTON ( -- Former probation chief John O'Brien was sentenced in court Thursday, which concluded the trial that cast a shadow of corruption on Beacon Hill.

O'Brien, who was the former head of the Massachusetts Probation Department, was convicted on several charges of mail fraud and racketeering and sentenced to 18 months behind bars and a one-year supervised release. He will have to pay a $25,000 fine.

Two of his deputies, Elizabeth Tavares and William Burke III, were also sentenced Thursday. All three were convicted of running a rigged hiring scheme, where they hired people into the probation department based on political connections and not qualifications.

Tavares was sentenced to 90 days in jail and a one year supervised release. Burke III avoided jail time, but will be on probation. Both have to pay a $10,000 fine. O'Brien and Tavares have until Jan. 12 to self-report.

"If I were to adopt the harsh sentences proposed here, I believe I'm sending precisely the wrong message," said Judge William Young. "I'm suggesting that these three are somehow rogue agents, are people completely out of the pale.  Tragically that's not so.  What we have here in this court, is fundamentally decent people utterly without a moral compass."

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