As the Nov. 6 election approaches, we’re disappointed that there is no choice when it comes to voting for Cape and Islands district attorney. In this, of all years, we wish Michael O’Keefe had some competition.
Last week, a single justice of the Supreme Judicial Court upheld a decision by the Massachusetts Board of Bar Overseers that one of O’Keefe’s assistants, Laura Marshard, is guilty of prosecutorial misconduct and must serve a one-month suspension.
Marshard accepted the outcome. O’Keefe did not. Instead, in a 24-page press release, he continued his assault on Robert and Timothy Moriarty, two brothers who are defense attorneys on the Island. In his cover letter, O’Keefe also takes aim at the SJC, noting that Justice Elspeth Cypher made a mistake when she suggested Marshard was from Nantucket, not Martha’s Vineyard, and got the location of an ethics workshop he sponsored wrong.
“These are small details, but it just shows we all make mistakes,” O’Keefe wrote.
Ironically, O’Keefe insists that Timothy Moriarty was required to disclose his relationship “in writing” to the client at the center of the case against Marshard. But that rule requiring written disclosure went into effect in 2015. The case in question was in 2014. One of those small details.
The failure of O’Keefe to apologize for his employee’s misconduct and his attempt to place blame elsewhere is unbecoming of a district attorney. O’Keefe should be remorseful, but instead he disrespectfully insists the evidence doesn’t support the outcome.
Marshard got a complete hearing before a tribunal of the Board of Bar Overseers. There were eight days of testimony over several months. O’Keefe himself was able to testify on his employee’s behalf. Marshard had one of the state’s best attorneys working for her, and the board gave her tremendous latitude to call witnesses — the case going on tangents that had nothing to do with the three complaints against Marshard.
In short, she was allowed to mount a vigorous defense — and lost.
The full board reviewed the evidence and found that Marshard “abused her prosecutorial power — aggravated by misrepresentations to a judge.” The board went so far as to disagree with the sanction of a public reprimand and, instead, recommended a one-month suspension.
Make no mistake, this board doesn’t typically go after prosecutors. Experts said it’s rare.
The board used strong language in its rebuke of Marshard, calling it “particularly troubling” when she attempted to “mislead a judge” by telling him the witness did not have appointed counsel at the time she questioned him. “These were lies,” the board’s decision states.
Maybe it’s the fact that O’Keefe’s office practices were also called into question that has him on the defensive: “The hearing committee noted that ex parte meetings with represented persons are apparently regular occurrence in the district attorney’s office where [Marshard] works. This is troubling coming from prosecutors, whose broad discretion carries with it ‘the responsibility of a minister of justice and not simply that of an advocate.’”
O’Keefe claims there is not a scintilla of evidence that’s the case — appearing to suggest a panel of respected attorneys who make up the Board of Bar Overseers made that up.
There have been some hints by O’Keefe that he intends to carry on this circus, telling our reporter, “We’ll see what happens next” when asked about whether he has filed any kind of complaint against the Moriarty brothers.
In his lengthy rebuttal, much of it cherry-picking transcripts that make the Moriartys look bad and ignore Marshard’s transgressions, O’Keefe does a disservice to the Island.
“It is an unhealthy situation when two brothers, both of whom are the sons of a superior court judge sitting on the Island, one of whom is supposed to be ‘supervising’ his brother, one of whom is married to an assistant Cape and Islands district attorney, all practice on the tiny Island of Martha’s Vineyard,” he wrote. “The rules of professional conduct contemplate many of the scenarios occasioned by familial relationships among lawyers, but they have to be followed in order to work. The people of Martha’s Vineyard deserve no less.”
What’s unhealthy is the district attorney’s obsession with the Moriarty family and his inability and unwillingness to concede that experienced lawyers and a judge have looked at all of the evidence with regard to Marshard and have come to a much different and disturbing conclusion.
It’s time for O’Keefe to let it go. The people of Martha’s Vineyard — and Marshard — deserve no less.