A Massachusetts lawyer, Sean O’Donovan, stood trial Monday, accused of attempting to bribe for Theory Wellness licenses. The government alleges that O’Donovan tried to pay a $25,000 bribe to the brother of a police chief involved in awarding these licenses.
Prosecutors’ evidence centers around secretly recorded meetings where O’Donovan allegedly admitted to the bribe, according to Law360. These recordings, they claim, show the lawyer saying the police chief is “switching the vote for the money.”
However, Martin G. Weinberg, O’Donovan’s attorney, counters that the government, in collaboration with the chief’s brother, Michael Buckley, and the chief himself, set up the bribery charge. Weinberg argues that O’Donovan merely sought fair consideration for his client’s application, not any undue favor. He even labeled the actions as comparable to “extortion” by the government’s informant.
“What the evidence will show is the government informant pushed for money he was not entitled to, threatened Sean’s client, shook Sean O’Donovan down, threatening harm to his client if Sean didn’t make payment to the informant,” Weinberg told jurors.
“If Buckley wasn’t working for the FBI, we would call it extortion,” he added.
If O’Donovan had successfully assisted his client, Theory Wellness, in obtaining the license, he would have stood to gain up to $100,000 worth in portion of the store’s annual profits.
Jonathan Jacobson of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Public Integrity Section contended that O’Donovan approached Michael Buckley for the bribe, viewing a direct approach to the chief as too risky.
A key defense argument revolves around the absence of direct communication between O’Donovan and the police chief, challenging the bribery claim’s legitimacy.
O’Donovan was hired by Theory Wellness in 2018 to help them open a cannabis store in Medford. Medford regulations require approval from a five-person panel, including the city’s police chief, to authorize such ventures.
Previously, O’Donovan attempted to have the case dismissed, stating the alleged crime was manufactured by the government’s informants or that it didn’t align with federal bribery definitions.