Boston Calling Extortion Trial Begins

BOSTON (WBZ NewsRadio) — The trial of two mayoral aides accused of extorting the Boston Calling music festival in 2014 began Tuesday in Federal Court in Boston.

Ken Brissette, Boston's former tourism chief, and Tim Sullivan, former head of intergovernmental relations, are charged with demanding that Crashline Productions, the festival organizer, hire union labor in exchange for needed permits.

The festival ended up using nonunion stagehands.

However, jurors in the trial didn't hear a lot about Boston Calling—instead, they heard about the 2017 Top Chef extortion trial, where four teamsters were acquitted of extortion after being accused of aggressively demonstrating outside places in Greater Boston where Top Chef was filming.

Former Top Chef talent scout Derek Cunningham told jurors he met with Brissette and was urged to hire Teamsters, especially because Mayor Marty Walsh was supposed to be on the show and it would look bad if it got out to the press that he was appearing on a non-union show.

Walsh is a former labor leader.

Cunningham said Brissette threatened to yank the festival's permits if union members weren't hired, and alleges the mayoral aide threatened to destroy already granted permits.

The defendants' attorneys said their clients only asked the organizers to consider hiring union stagehands to avoid protests, and that there was no quid pro quo. The defense attorneys say it isn't illegal to ask, and all anyone wanted was a successful day.

The union did write at one point that jobs had been secured with help from City Hall.

Former Boston Police Commissioner Bill Evans and Mayor Walsh could potentially be on the witness list in the trial.

(Photo: Classen Rafael / EyeEm)

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WBZ NewsRadio's Karyn Regal (@Karynregal) reports

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