Thursday, July 18, 2024

The Medford police station. (Photo: CTA Construction Managers)

Sean O’Donovan, an attorney and former Somerville alderman and School Committee member, was sentenced Wednesday to two years in prison plus three years of supervised release, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts. He will also need to pay a $150,000 fine and a $300 special assessment.

O’Donovan found himself at the center of a bribery scandal in June 2022 when he was indicted on two counts of honest services wire fraud and a count of bribery concerning programs that receive federal funds, according to a 2022 press release from the district court.

On retainer as a consultant for a cannabis dispensary looking to set up shop in Medford, one of O’Donovan’s main responsibilities was helping the dispensary get a host community agreement in the city, which is a prerequisite for an operational license. The Medford Cannabis Advisory Committee vets the applications, so in 2021 tried to bribe a member of that committee – city police chief Jack Buckley – by offering a $25,000 payment through his brother, authorities said. The chief’s brother relayed O’Donovan’s offer to the chief, who reported it to federal authorities.

“The Department of Justice commends the Medford chief of police for immediately bringing this matter to the attention of federal law enforcement,” officials said in 2022.

The dispensary for which O’Donovan worked didn’t know about the bribery scheme, the indictment noted.

O’Donovan’s attorney, Martin Weinberg, argued that O’Donovan’s actions fell outside the purview of federal law, as federal bribery law accounts only for money offered or paid to a local official, not a relative.

“We intend to vigorously contest these charges and establish that the acts as alleged fall outside the parameters of federal criminal law,” Weinberg told CommonWealth in 2022.

O’Donovan motioned in August 2022 to have the charges dismissed, but the request was denied.

A jury convicted O’Donovan on all three counts I=in October 2023. Both of the wire fraud counts carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, while the bribery count carries a maximum sentence of 10 years.

“Today’s verdict proves that Sean O’Donovan went from practicing law to breaking it by engaging in a pay-to-play scheme in which he tried to capitalize on his insider access, in attempting to bribe the Medford police chief for his own financial gain. His actions were not only an affront to all the hard-working businesses that play by the rules, but a betrayal of his client’s and the community’s trust,” said Jodi Cohen, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Boston Division, in a press release.

O’Donovan served on the Somerville School Committee from 1995 to 1999. He then served as Ward 5 alderman from 2000 to 2013 when he stepped down to focus on his family obligations and law practice.

According to reporting from The Boston Globe, O’Donovan had a history of lobbying municipal officials in Eastern Massachusetts, especially during the administration of Boston mayor Marty Walsh, though none of those instances were reported to be illegal.