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DA says ‘indifferent’ to federal interest in Karen Read case

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Crime

Responding to reports of a federal investigation into the John O’Keefe murder investigation, Norfolk District Attorney Michael Morrissey called the investigation an “extraordinary measure.”

Karen Read, the Mansfield woman accused of killing Boston police officer John O’Keefe, appeared in Norfolk County Superior Court for a pretrial hearing on May 3, 2023. She stood on the steps with her attorneys after the audience. John Tumacki/Boston Globe Staff, File

Norfolk District Attorney Michael Morrissey said he was confident in the prosecution of Karen Read’s murder as federal authorities probe the state’s investigation.

Boston 25 News reported earlier this week that the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts was investigating Read’s arrest and prosecution. The report cites a letter Morrissey allegedly sent to the Justice Department, requesting that the federal investigation be moved out of state due to conflicts of interest.

“The U.S. Attorney’s Office does not have jurisdiction over a state murder case, so this is an extraordinary action on their part,” Morrissey said of the investigation in a statement provided to Boston.com. “I don’t worry about it because I trust what we did and what people told us.”

The FBI’s Boston office declined to comment on the existence of a federal investigation. The U.S. Attorney’s Office told Boston.com in an email: “We neither confirm nor deny the investigations. »

Background to Karen Read’s case

Read’s controversial case attracted national attention and fueled fervent debate in Massachusetts.

The 43-year-old Mansfield woman is accused of killing her boyfriend, Boston police officer John O’Keefe, in January 2022. Authorities say Read hit O’Keefe with his SUV as he was dropping off at the home of another Boston police officer in Canton. after a night of drinking.

Her lawyers say she is being framed, alleging a police cover-up and raising an alternative theory that O’Keefe was beaten inside the home and attacked by the homeowner’s dog. Prosecutors have rejected that theory as unfounded.

Morrissey previously released a rare video statement pushing back on the conspiracy theory and condemning the harassment of multiple witnesses in the Read case. He then appointed a special prosecutor, who in turn brought charges of witness intimidation against Aidan Kearney, the controversial “Turtleboy” blogger who embraced Read’s claims as a cover-up.

Read’s case is expected to go to trial in March.

When did federal officials start looking into the Read case?

According to Morrissey, there are “indications” that federal interest in Read’s case began during Rachael Rollins’ tenure as U.S. attorney for Massachusetts.

Boston 25 reported that in asking that the federal investigation be moved to another jurisdiction, Morrissey alleged that Rollins had a personal grudge against him and that a top federal prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s Public Corruption Unit is married to a former assistant district attorney. from his office.

Morrissey and Rollins — who served as Suffolk County prosecutors before taking federal office in 2022 — have clashed several times over criminal justice issues in the past.

In 2019, Rollins expressed frustration with the lack of public outrage toward Morrissey after his office lowered criminal charges against a former Red Sox player and the player’s wife. The following year, Rollins accused Morrissey and three other Massachusetts prosecutors of misogyny for intervening in a Suffolk County criminal case – a case that other prosecutors said could have impacted sentencing practices. sentence across the state.

Rollins resigned as U.S. attorney in May after two federal watchdog reports found she abused the power of her position.

According to Boston 25, the federal investigation into Read’s case began before his lawyers went public with their cover-up allegations. The news station reported that witnesses in the state’s prosecution were served with a subpoena on April 10 to appear before a federal grand jury.

Morrissey said his office “has not seen and is not aware of any target letters in this matter.”

The prosecutor said he and “various individuals” contacted the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office “to encourage them to come forward and talk about what the Norfolk District Attorney’s Office’s murder investigation revealed.”

He said federal authorities have not yet accepted the prosecutor’s office’s offer.

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