The decision announced this week by the First Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals reversing the convictions of the three former heads of the Massachusetts Probation Department obviously comes as welcome news for those individuals whose lives have been ruined by the federal prosecutors who brought those charges.
However, the decision also exonerates the Massachusetts legislature and others who were implicated, directly or indirectly, by the decision by the U.S. Attorney’s office to pursue charges that many legal analysts (who are far smarter than ourselves) had questioned from the outset.
Certainly, there can be differing opinions about the Probation Department’s hiring practices that were in place at that time. However, it is one thing to say that such practices may have been inefficient, but another altogether to allege that they constituted a criminal enterprise as the U.S. Attorney had charged.
There never was any hint that those hiring practices involved the exchange of bribes or anything even remotely approaching such wrongdoing. Rather, the U.S. Attorney seemed to be upset that legislators were serving their constituents, which is one of the primary aspects of the job of a state legislator. However, the federal judicial panel clearly stated that there was no there, there (to paraphrase Gertrude Stein) relative to federal law.
The Massachusetts House of Representatives has had its share of problems in the recent past. However, under the Speakership of our own State Representative, Bob DeLeo, the Mass. House — and state government in general — has served as a model of positive and ethical government for the entire nation.
As we once wrote in the past, Bob DeLeo was chosen by his fellow members of the House to serve as Speaker because he is known by all as a proverbial Boy Scout in terms of his professional ethics.
To the extent that the federal prosecution cast a cloud of suspicion over Bob and the entire legislature, we are happy to report that the cloud now has been lifted — and Massachusetts residents can rest assured that their state legislators have been cleared of any hint of wrongdoing in this matter.