CANTON, Mass. — 25 Investigates has learned Norfolk County District Attorney Michael Morrissey sent a letter to the Department of Justice requesting that the federal probe of the Karen Read case be transferred out of Massachusetts.
Morrissey’s letter provides the first official confirmation that the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts is looking into the arrest and prosecution of Read, who’s accused of striking her Boston police officer boyfriend John O’Keefe with her Lexus SUV and leaving him to die in a snowstorm.
O’Keefe’s body was found just after 6 a.m. on Jan. 29, 2022, outside the Canton home of another Boston officer named Brian Albert. Police charged Read with second-degree murder and said she struck O’Keefe while driving in reverse after dropping him off at the Albert home following a night of drinking.
The case has drawn national attention over claims by Read’s lawyers that she is being framed for O’Keefe’s murder by local and state law enforcement and people identified as witnesses for the prosecution.
‘Conflict of Interest’
According to two sources who spoke to 25 Investigates on the condition of anonymity, Morrissey’s request to have the federal probe moved to another region is based on at least 2 conflict-of-interest claims.
Morrissey sent a letter to the highest levels of the Department of Justice in Washington D.C. alleging Rachael Rollins, who was the U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts when the federal probe began, held a personal grudge against him and his office.
A source said Morrissey referenced public comments made by Rollins that are critical of him.
Rollins resigned her position on May 19th following two scathing reports from government watchdog agencies accusing her of abusing her authority and committing multiple ethical violations.
25 Investigates tried to reach out to Rollins by phone, but did not hear back.
According to 2 sources, Morrissey’s letter also referenced a high-level federal prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s public corruption unit in Boston who is married to a former assistant district attorney from his office. The circumstances surrounding the former employee’s departure are not public record and 25 Investigates has been unable to confirm the reason she left Morrissey’s office or what the conflict could be.
25 Investigates filed an official request for a copy of Morrissey’s letter on October 31st. On November 14, the Norfolk DA’s office denied the request claiming the document is not a public record.
Their written response said the letter is exempt from disclosure because it contains “confidential personnel information,” “privileged attorney work product” and is connected to an “ongoing criminal investigation.”
25 Investigates has petitioned Secretary of State William Galvin’s office to force the Norfolk DA to release the letter. In the petition, investigative reporter Ted Daniel argued, “The DA’s office can make a claim to withhold their own investigative techniques, but that argument is irrational when they are not the investigators.”
The Secretary of State’s office has ordered the Norfolk DA’s office to provide the letter or issue a new response to 25 Investigates by December 13th.
A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s office in Boston would not confirm or deny the existence of the letter or the federal investigation.
FEDERAL GRAND JURY
Federal authorities normally don’t get involved in local murder cases because they lack jurisdiction, but they do have the power to investigate allegations of public corruption.
“They’re not looking into the specific murder itself. I think that’s the misconception a lot of people get,” said Evan Gotlob, a former Assistant U.S. Attorney, and partner at the Boston office of Saul Ewing. “They’re investigating the investigation of the murder,” he said.
Sources tell 25 Investigates that the probe is being run by the U.S. Attorney’s Public Corruption Unit and people have been questioned in front of a federal grand jury. “The Public Corruption & Special Prosecution Unit (PCU) works to preserve and uphold the integrity of the government,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s website.
Several people who attended the gathering at the Albert home the night John O’Keefe died have been called to testify before the secret panel, according to sources.
Gotlob said a federal grand jury typically sits for 18 months and can hear hundreds of different cases.
“Usually there’s a tip from somebody,” Gotlob said. “The federal government could be looking into possible corruption in the police department, possible obstruction of justice in the investigation.”
25 Investigates has learned that two FBI agents have been questioning people in and around Canton and reviewing documents from the Norfolk DA’s office and Canton police department.
PROBE BEGAN BEFORE ‘FREE KAREN READ’ MOVEMENT
The federal probe began before Read’s lawyers went public with their claims of a cover-up and before the “Free Karen Read” movement began.
On April 12th, Karen Read’s lawyers announced a “dramatic” turn in her murder case and claimed new evidence “establishes her innocence” in the death of O’Keefe.
In a widely reported news release and court filing, Read’s defense team pointed the finger at witnesses in the case: including a party attendee who Googled how “long to die in cold.”
Two days before, on April 10th – people identified as witnesses for the state’s prosecution of Read received subpoenas to appear before the federal grand jury, according to a source with direct knowledge of the proceedings.
That timing suggests someone with knowledge of the case secretly approached the U.S. Attorney’s office and requested the probe.
Read’s attorney Alan Jackson referenced the probe at a pre-trial hearing for Read in May. He said: “Karen Read should not have to wait for the feds to figure out which heads should roll!”
ALLEGATIONS OF A COVER-UP
The defense argument that Read has been framed encompasses everyone from people at the Canton home where O’Keefe’s body was found, to state and local law enforcement who investigated.
Read’s lawyers claim prosecutors failed to investigate other suspects – including party attendees.
The defense claims O’Keefe entered the home where he was beaten up, a dog attacked him, and he was dragged outside and left to die in the cold.
Read’s defense is arguing that those party attendees used their law enforcement connections in Canton to frame Read. Her lawyers have at times pointed to social media photos of party attendees pictured with a state police detective assigned to the Read case. Another of Read’s attorneys, David Yannetti, has claimed the detective who had custody of O’Keefe’s clothing and other evidence from Read’s SUV had close ties to the Canton homeowner’s family that left him “conflicted and corrupt.”
“Regarding the tiny pieces of taillight – for those to have any evidentiary value, you have to trust the person who had custody of John O’Keefe’s clothing before it was sent to the lab,” Yannetti said in September.
PROSECUTORS DENY COVER-UP
Meanwhile, prosecutors say they’ve amassed a pile of evidence – from numerous witnesses who said Read was asking if she hit O’Keefe the morning his body was found, to conflicting statements Read made to witnesses including O’Keefe’s niece, forensic evidence of skull fractures that led to bruising on his face and voicemails and texts suggesting discord in their relationship.
Prosecutors have denied any conflicts of interest among police who investigated O’Keefe’s death and claim Read’s lawyers have pointed to erroneous or misleading social media photos to bolster their claims of connections between party attendees and investigators.
DA Morrissey took the unusual step of releasing a video in August condemning what he called the “absolutely baseless” harassment of witnesses in the Read case.
“To have them accused of murder is outrageous,” Morrissey said in the video, “To have them harassed and intimidated based on false narratives and accusations is wrong. They are witnesses doing what our justice system asks of them.”
Gotlob said the federal prosecutor’s job is to seek justice – not to get involved in a case because of personal conflicts. He said the public corruption investigations he worked on typically lasted 2 to 4 years before charges were filed.
If no criminal activity is found, he says federal authorities are not obligated to disclose that and it’s possible the probe could finish as quietly as it began.
“You won’t hear anything about it,” he said. “I’m pretty sure anybody in the U.S. Attorney’s office that’s looking into it knows how important it is to get this right based on the interest on both sides of this matter.”
This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.
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