A federal judge today tossed the conspiracy convictions of Kenneth Brissette and Timothy Sullivan in the Boston Calling case, because federal prosecutors failed to show either man received any personal benefit from convincing the music-festival's organizers to hire members of a local union to work the event.
US District Court Judge Leo Sorokin continued that the local US Attorney's office failed to even prove the two men actually did anything wrong, even absent any sort of personal gain, because, at its heart, the case was about enforcing a contract and federal extortion law is meant to combat extortion, not making sure contracts are honored.
In a 90-page ruling, Sorokin continued to tear into the government's case:
Here, the government failed to prove that the defendants lied. In fact, the evidence at trial was one-sided as to this. The union wanted jobs at Crash Line’s festivals. It repeatedly said so. It threatened to protest at the festival starting in May, including with an inflatable rat. It said that in writing and orally, including in the weeks before the September event. The possibility of a protest was discussed at City Hall. Given the posture of the case, the Court must disregard the evidence favorable to the defendants. What remains after doing so is an absence of evidence establishing a lie. As such, the government failed to meet its burden of proof.
Third, the government failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendants knew about and intended to exploit Crash Line’s fears regarding festival permits or an extension of the agreement allowing it to hold events on City Hall Plaza. Proof that a public official meets in his government office with someone seeking a permit as the end of the permitting process approaches cannot—without more, and there was no more here—establish the requisite intent for Hobbs Act extortion.
The lack of proof of any wrongdoing was so compelling, Sorokin concluded, he had no choice but to overturn the August jury verdict.
In a statement, US Attorney Andrew Lelling expressed disappointment that the judge concluded there was no pro to go with the quid:
An impartial jury, following legal instructions written by the Court, voted unanimously to convict these two men. We are disappointed by this decision and will review our options.