25 Investigates: Defense wants Read case tossed over prosecutor conduct, ‘cover-up’ allegations

CANTON, Mass. — Lawyers representing a Massachusetts woman accused of killing a Boston police officer have mounted their latest bid to defend their client – this time by filing a late Friday motion that seeks to get the indictments tossed over alleged prosecutorial misconduct.

The defense’s motion also sheds new light on a federal investigation involving witnesses in the case.

Prosecutors have charged Karen Read with second-degree murder for allegedly killing her Boston police officer boyfriend John O’Keefe by backing into him with her SUV and leaving him to die in a snowstorm on Jan. 29, 2022.

Boston 25 obtained the defense’s Friday afternoon filing, in which Read’s lawyers says the Norfolk County District Attorney has disclosed six letters dated May to November 2023 between the DA’s office and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, U.S. Department of Justice or the FBI.

The motion says in a May 18, 2023 four-page letter, Norfolk County DA Michael Morrissey told the Office of Professional Responsibility at the U.S. Department of Justice that he was aware that multiple state witnesses in the Read case had “‘received subpoenas to appear before a Federal Grand Jury.’”

According to the defense’s motion, that May 18, 2023 letter from Morrissey says that the first assistant at the U.S. Attorney’s Office spoke with the DA’s office “disclosing the existence of a federal investigation involving a number of the witnesses in the Karen Read case.”

The defense’s motion says Morrisey’s letter also says: “we have confirmed that witnesses testified before the Grand Jury.”

But the defense motion also says that in a Dec. 4 notice of discovery, the DA’s office said it had received no “confirmation about whether any witnesses” in the Read case had testified before a federal grand jury.

“Compounding its failure to make timely disclosure to the defense of this information it knew about and that tended to negate the defendant’s guilt, the Commonwealth failed to make any disclosure at all until it was apparent that media outlets had gained the information and would be reporting it,” reads the defense motion, referring to 25 Investigates’ reporting.

“The Commonwealth’s assertion in its court-filed Notice of Discovery was patently false,” the motion later reads.

The defense says Morrissey used that letter to argue that the U.S. Attorney office was targeted his office for investigation because of the then-outgoing U.S. Attorney’s “personal animosity toward me.”

Read’s defense team also argues that Morrissey’s August video calling for an end to harassment of witnesses amounted to tainting the jury pool and unethical “personally vouch[ing] for numerous, named Commonwealth witnesses…”

Read’s team wants the judge to dismiss indictments against Read over Morrissey’s alleged failure to adhere to ethics rules and constitutional due process requirements.

It was unclear Friday whether that argument would hold water with three months to go before the March 12 trial.

Morrissey’s spokesperson David Traub said: “The office is reviewing the defense filings but has no comment at this time.”

Read appeared in Norfolk Superior Court Friday as her team continued its pre-trial fight to discredit prosecutors’ case against her.

Judge Beverly Cannone heard several motions filed by prosecutors and the defense team for Karen Read – the Massachusetts woman accused of killing her Boston police officer boyfriend John O’Keefe by backing into him with her SUV and leaving him to die in a snowstorm.

Read’s defense attorneys want the court to make public letters sent between the Norfolk County District Attorney’s Office and federal authorities about the case.

Prosecutors want those letters impounded.

Judge Cannone said the defense should have legally served the U.S. Attorney’s office to allow that office to weigh in on the issue.

Read’s defense team also wanted communications – like texts or social media messages – between a witness in the case and a lead investigator’s family member who isn’t a witness.

Cannone denied that motion and said Read’s lawyer didn’t show those communications would “yield relevant, admissible evidence for trial.”

But Judge Cannone allowed a motion for communications between the witness and the lead investigator, Trooper Michael Proctor.

The request comes weeks after 25 Investigates reported that Norfolk DA Michael Morrissey had sent a letter to the Department of Justice in May, requesting that the federal probe of the Karen Read case be transferred out of Massachusetts, based on potential conflicts with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Boston.

Morrissey’s letter provided 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.

The Norfolk DA’s office wants to impound that letter and others that Morrissey and his first assistant exchanged with federal authorities in Boston and at the U.S. Department of Justice. The DA’s office shared the letters with Read’s Defense team on December 4th as discovery.

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.

Read’s lawyers have alleged she’s being framed as part of a wide-ranging conspiracy involving everyone from emergency response officials who arrived to the scene, to local and state law enforcement.

The defense’s Friday motion argues that law enforcement officers “participated in and furthered the cover-up of what happened to John O’Keefe inside 34 Fairview Road, including by planting incriminating evidence falsely implicating the defendant in John O’Keefe’s death.”

Since spring 2023, her team has pointed to cell phone evidence, an apparent failure to seriously consider other suspects and photos posted on social media suggesting alleged connections between Albert party attendees and law enforcement and

Prosecutors say they’ve amassed a pile of evidence – from interviews with numerous witnesses who said Read was asking if she hit O’Keefe the morning his body was found, to forensic evidence of skull fractures that led to bruising on his face, to an apparent human hair found on Read’s Lexus, to voicemails and text messages suggesting discord between O’Keefe and Read, to records showing Read was still intoxicated the morning O’Keefe’s body was found.

Norfolk Assistant District Attorney Adam Lally has said “microscopic pieces” of red and clear plastic were recovered on O’Keefe’s shirt. Prosecutors have been comparing those pieces with pieces of broken taillight from Read’s SUV.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

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