Lawyers in Probation case say O’Brien guilty of patronage, but nothing more

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Lawyers for John J. O’Brien, the former head of the Probation department who resigned in 2010 amid an investigation into rigged hiring practices, told a federal judge Monday that they will argue at his high-profile trial that he did nothing illegal, but only engaged in patronage.

The lawyers made the claim in federal court in Boston Monday in the latest of several last-minute hearings to determine whether the long-awaited trial, scheduled for Feb. 25, should be postponed. Lawyers for O’Brien and two codefendants argue they have only begun to delve into recently obtained state documents that show extensive patronage within the Massachusetts trial court system, which they said support their argument that O’Brien was doing things that were widely accepted.

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