Boston City Officials Convicted of Extorting a Local Music Festival Into Hiring Unneeded Union Laborers

Government officials in Boston, MA have been found guilty of extortion-related charges involving a local music festival.

Prosecutors claimed that these officials forced a local music festival’s promoters to hire unneeded union labor, and after a two-week-long case, a jury determined that the pair had committed some of the alleged crimes.

The guilty parties, Timothy Sullivan and Kenneth Brissette, worked in City Hall and, to be sure, were assistants to Boston’s mayor, Marty Walsh, who was elected in 2014. Mayor Walsh voiced his disproval with the court’s decision, and he reiterated his belief that the actions taken by his former employees were entirely legal.

Specifically, prosecutors stated that Sullivan and Brissette threatened to revoke permits from Crash Line Productions, an event management and music festival company, just days before their City Hall Plaza festival, Boston Calling, was scheduled to take place — unless they hired union laborers, that is. Prosecutors also indicated that Mayor Walsh had received support from unions and may have encouraged Sullivan and Brissette to make the demands.

Both men were found guilty under statutes of the Hobbs Act, a 1946 federal law that prohibits individuals — and especially government officials — from purposefully obstructing commerce with the intent to rob or extort the targeted company and/or individuals. Sullivan was found guilty of conspiracy under the Hobbs Act, while Brissette was found guilty of both conspiracy and extortion under the same law. After the jury returned their verdict, Brissette and Sullivan resigned from Mayor Walsh’s office.

Judge Leo T. Sorokin will sentence Sullivan and Brissette next.

The short version of this long and tiring case is that government officials shouldn’t use their offices to threaten and coerce businesspeople — particularly those who are taking the initiative to bring music to fans. As recent events have demonstrated, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for music festivals to operate, and that’s without considering expensive and illegal demands made by crooked government employees.