A lawyer in Massachusetts professed his innocence after being charged with attempting to bribe a police chief in order to secure the opening of a cannabis shop. Sean O’Donovan is aged 54 and works in Somerville. This is a city with a population of 81,000 that lies two miles northwest of Boston.
O’Donovan was supposedly operating on behalf of an unnamed client who sought to institute a cannabis dispensary, ie a cannabis shop, in the city of Medford. Medford is 6.7 miles northwest of Boston and has a population of 60,000. A Justice Department press release stated that the client, who hired O’Donovan in 2018, had no knowledge of his endeavour. O’Donovan would, however, apparently have received a minimum of $100,000 a year for his efforts, had they been successful. This is 1% of the projected annual gross profit of the cannabis shop.
Medford only permits three cannabis dispensaries. The Cannabis Advisory Committee considers applications. This is a panel of five people, one of whom is Medford’s Chief of Police, Jack Buckley. It reviews the equity, local impact, management, operational plan and ownership of applications. If an application is successful, the city and the business sign a Host Community Agreement.
The lawyer’s lawyer, Martin Weinberg, wrote in an email that his client didn’t bribe or even discuss bribing anybody, which seems to be patently untrue. Prosecutors claim that O’Donovan contacted “a close relative” of Medford’s police chief in February 2021. He purportedly offered $25,000 for the opportunity to commune with them regarding his client’s application for the opening of a cannabis shop in Medford. Part of this would have been cash (“If I give you cash, there will be no trace”) while part would have been a loan. O’Donovan met with the relative in a parking lot in Medford on February 22. There, he professedly declared, “You’re alone, right?” Prosecutors allege that in the ensuing few months, there were a number of meetings between O’Donovan and the relative, whom court papers termed Individual 1, for consideration of the matter.
Around October 11, O’Donovan handed Individual 1 $2,000 of cash. That same month, the client rejected O’Donovan’s proposal to hire Individual 1 as a consultant, stating that they were an “above board company.”
Unfortunately, the copper had immediately notified federal authorities. Individual 1 consented to being recorded on the telephone and when they met with O’Donovan in person. As First Assistant United States Attorney Joshua Levy informed reporters on Friday June 24 2022, O’Donovan’s only problem was that “the FBI was listening in on every single one of those meetings he had with Individual 1.”
O’Donovan had been arrested by the FBI at his home in West Yarmouth that same morning. He has been charged with federal rather than state crimes. Honest services wire fraud gets you a maximum of 20 years in the clink and a fine of up to $250,000. Bribery gets you as much as 10 years and a fine, again, of $250,000.
People in Massachusetts voted to allow recreational cannabis in November 2016. Two years after, Medford passed two ordinances that regulated cannabis sales in the vicinity.
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