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Judge overturns Boston Calling extortion convictions; says prosecutors didn't show quid pro quo

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.

PDF icon Complete ruling414.31 KB


In a statement, US Attorney Andrew Lelling expressed disappointment that the judge concluded there was no pro to go with the quid

The judge concluded there was no quo to go with the quid.

"what for which"

Pro is "for".


Pro is "for".

True enough, Kaz, but a better translation than "what for which" might be "something for something," which is more idiomatic English and truer to the spirit of the Latin. Remember the maxim you learned in high school: "After si, nisi, num, and ne, every ali drops away." (Yes, I know we don't explicitly have any of those four words here, but it's the same principle.)

End of pedantic Latin lesson.

Never learned that maxim. But I took my third year of Latin in high school by videotape at home because I desperately wanted to get a certificate from the school (for college admissions) that said I took 3 years of foreign language on top of everything else, but also maintain a 4th year of band at the same time. But Latin III was only offered on the same period as band because we had to do it in a video room with another high school in our county so the class size was large enough to justify assigning us a teacher. It was like an early form of online learning using a local cable access channel to broadcast one class to the other and vice versa (the teacher could toggle the live camera). I got to sit at home on weekends and watch a VHS of the entire week all at once to keep up with the assignments.

The only maxim that has stuck with me is semper ubi sub ubi.

Will Marty rehire these two buffoons like he did the last time Judge Sorokin (same judge) tossed the case and was reversed by a higher court? Hopefully the Appeals Court reverses this again. Interesting that the jury verdict was nullified and not guilty verdicts were entered the minute Biden's campaign reached room temperature. Apparently pardons were no longer an option, despite Marty and Biden's poignant, private stroll through the Seaport last year.


What is the difference between what these two gentlemen did advocating for union workers and what police unions do advocating for details at events?


I see a big difference between a union leader, with that clear title and responsibilities to fight for their members, and a city official with responsibilities to uphold city law and represent the entire population.(and not to represent a union). Walsh's guys had a clear conflict of interest.

. What is the difference between what these two gentlemen did advocating for union workers and what police unions do advocating for details at events?


Was between the State Police Union and the Boston Police Union over lucrative details. BPD and Transit have had similar battles over whose union could do details. The police unions have eliminated any civilian flag men from doing lucrative construction details. These two gentlemen didn't take a dime and were doing the same thing advocating for union workers.

For f**ks sake. This has nothing to do with the police. Can we stop dragging them into arguments that have nothing to do with them? *insert your boot licker comment here*

Yes, "advocating" let's go with that :-)

Like it or not, police details are currently required by law (city ordinance.) If you disagree with it, that law can be changed by the council at any time. In the City Hall extortion case, there was no law or legal requirement for Boston Calling to hire Marty's union stagehands, just pressure from City Hall. Big difference.

The better comparison would be if Walsh's police commissioner went around in his official capacity to intimidate road contractors into hiring more details than required. The various Boston police unions are private clubs with no authority to order a detail anymore than the stage union can force themselves on a private show. These were city officials, not union officials, who the jury convicted of felony crimes.


Brisette and Sullivan did nothing to interfere with Boston Calling permits. Former Comissioner Evans testified to having problems with the alcohol sales. Boston Calling didn't want to corral the drinkers. Evans was also concerned about a history of concert attendees getting alcohol poisoning. Evans testified that he never discussed these problems with Brisette or Sullivan. Labeling Evans an un-indicted co-conspirator doesn't wash either. The real conflict started when Boston Calling's "volunteers" came under scrutiny. Tim Sullivan was involved getting the production company to comply with MA state minimum wage laws.


Jones provided an email statement to the News Service, recalling her interactions with Sullivan and Boston Calling.

"Tim called to report to me in the Office that the City had received information suggesting that Boston Calling, with whom the City had a contract to produce a music festival on City Hall plaza, intended to treat its concert workers as volunteers - not employees, and that they were also apparently charging the workers to apply for the jobs and requiring that the workers put down a deposit for the opportunity to work. Tim also indicated that he had heard that the workers were being 'paid' with concert T-shirts and free admission to the festival at which they would be working," Jones wrote. She said after meeting with Boston Calling "the company immediately took steps to properly classify its workers for all purposes (wage and hour, workers' compensation and tax) and by all accounts properly paid its workers in compliance with the law."

But neither Brissette or Sullivan withheld any permits or instructed anyone to withhold permits. Perhaps Boston Calling harbored some resentment for actually having to pay its workers. These convictions relied on the jury assuming facts not in evidence. Lelling nullified the jury, not this judge.

Adam, please ban O-FISH-L. I'm tired of seeing tolls like him pollute the comments section. He has violated the guidelines time and time again, and I think less of your site for providing him a platform to spread his disinformation.

Thank you


Let's ban unregistered commenters.

Or, Adam can allow a certain level of free speech, under which the only thing 'Fish has done is spout ideas that are unpopular here.

Also, there is always the option of not reading his comments. I do it all the time.

Emo version


Imagine being a juror on this case?.
He basically just called them dopes.


This prosecution and verdict stunk. There was no there there.


So, the judge threw out the case. Then, on appeal, allowed the case to go forward. After they empaneled a jury, present the case, and get a verdict, he throws out the case again for the same reason he did in the first place.

I guess the question is, why did he allow the trial?


or perhaps why is this person still a judge?


Why do we allow directed verdicts in the first place? If it's a jury trial, than their verdict should stand and be either upheld or overturned on appeal, and not immediately overturned by an overzealous judge.

If I had been on that jury, I'd be pretty pissed off right now.


And everyone should have the right to appeal for those reasons alone.

Then, on appeal, allowed the case to go forward.

He didn't allow it to go forward to trial after appeal; he was ordered to. Big difference. And he's within his rights as trial judge to vacate the jury verdict now. The government can appeal this action too but hopefully they just let it go at this point. There was no crime here.

Which means his decision now can be appealed in the same way.

In any event, the litigation of these charges seems almost messier than the charges themselves.

“This is not a case where people were charged with getting money from the vendor for work that wasn’t done or employees that didn’t exist,” he said. “This was a theory of extortion based on openly advancing a city policy by city officials.”

The government, he said, has appeared to have "fully ventilated its theory both during pretrial and in the appeals court and now in the jury trial.”


These quotes are from Judge Sorokin's ruling. Because of the repeated examination of the evidence in motions and during the trial it was clear to him that no evidence of illegal acts existed. As i have said before, this case was trying to make union support illegal.

I think it's reasonable that--

  • The judge thought the case was bunk based on the initial filings, so he threw it out;
  • The prosecutor appealed, so he decided to give them a shot to present it, based on whatever explanations they presented in the appeal;
  • The prosecutor presented it to the jury and the jury convicted;
  • The judge, having heard the case in totality, now knew it was bunk; so
  • He threw it out again.

Importantly, the part of the case that the judge thought was nonsense was the prosecutor's interpretation of the laws in play. When presented with facts plus an incorrect interpretation of the laws, a jury is going to convict when they shouldn't have. The judge, only after hearing all the arguments, concluded that the prosecutor's interpretation of the laws were nonsense and tossed it.

Nuanced, circuitous stuff like this happens in the legal system all the time. It's just not usually a high-profile case so people don't get exposed to it.

of having ever having juries if a judge can just throw out the verdict?


This case had no legal merit. Any lawyer worth her salt has said that from the start. A waste of taxpayer money and prosecutorial attention. Both men are owed an apology and to be made whole after two US attorneys bled them dry financially on a witch hunt.



None. No relation or pecuniary interest in the matter. Just not a fan of overzealous federal prosecutors. You shouldn't be either. Carmen Ortiz was bad enough under Obama, who should have fired her. Now imagine an untethered Andrew Lelling in a second Trump term. That should deeply concern anyone who appreciates their freedom.

i mean, we already went through this once so why bother with the jury only to toss it again?

Lelling's case relied on the assumption that union support is criminal.