Federal authorities are investigating whether the head of the US Marshals Service in Boston assigned deputy marshals, normally charged with tracking fugitives and protecting judges, to ferry Fox Sports broadcasters Tim McCarver and Joe Buck between their hotel and Fenway Park during last year's World Series.
The Justice Department's office of the inspector general in Boston is looking into whether Yvonne Bonner overstepped her authority as acting US Marshal in Boston or violated any ethics rules by allegedly ordering her deputies to essentially serve as private taxi drivers, according to two law enforcement officials and other people familiar with the investigation. They talked on the condition of anonymity, because the investigation is ongoing.
During both home games, on Oct. 24 and Oct. 25, two deputy marshals allegedly watched the Red Sox defeat the Colorado Rockies from the broadcast booth with McCarver and Buck, as well as Joseph Band, a lawyer who works for the US Marshals Service in Washington and occasionally does work for the Fox network, the officials said.
Bonner allegedly instructed the deputy marshals to use their unmarked cruisers to drive Band and the broadcasters to and from the park as a favor to Band, a longtime Justice Department employee, the officials said. Band is also listed as a member of the Washington Redskins' statistics crew.
Investigators are looking into whether the deputy marshals activated their blue lights to cut through traffic as the sellout crowd jammed the streets around the ballpark. The deputy marshals allegedly flashed their badges to gain entrance to the park, according to those familiar with the probe.
In a brief telephone interview yesterday, Bonner acknowledged that the inspector general's office is conducting an investigation, but said she was prohibited from discussing it because it is an ongoing matter. "I don't have a problem with people questioning my decisions; it comes with the territory," said Bonner, who has been acting US Marshal since December 2006. "I'm not worried."
At least one deputy marshal involved questioned the appropriateness of the World Series assignment, according to one of the people familiar with the probe, but Bonner allegedly told him not to worry because she was "good friends" with John F. Clark, the director of the US Marshals Service, "and even better friends with his wife."
Bonner denied making the remark. "That's absurd," she said. "People can say anything they want. I simply can't comment on an ongoing investigation. I will be delighted to [talk] once it's over."
Efforts to reach Band by telephone and e-mail yesterday were unsuccessful. Buck and McCarver also could not be reached for comment.
"We are unaware of any such investigation" said Dan Bell, vice president of communication for Fox Sports. "If we are contacted, we will provide our full cooperation."
Cynthia Schnedar, a spokeswoman for the Department of Justice office of inspector general, said the office would not confirm or deny the existence of an investigation.
But those familiar with the probe say it was launched at least two months ago by inspectors who work at an office in the federal courthouse in Boston, the same building that houses the US Marshals Service. A number of deputy marshals, including all of those who were assigned to the World Series, have been questioned, they said.
Nancy McGillivray, who served as US marshal in Boston for nine years and retired from the agency four years ago, said deputy marshals are charged with witness protection, transporting prisoners, tracking fugitives, enforcing federal court orders, and protecting judges or other officials that are involved in business that the federal government has an interest in. "If there's no interest to the US government, then it shouldn't be happening," said McGillivray, adding that it would be inappropriate for deputy marshals to be assigned to transport broadcasters, or even a federal lawyer who was not there on official government business, to Fenway Park.
"If in fact the allegations are true . . . it's demeaning to the individuals involved and the agency," McGillivray said. "They are professionally trained to do law enforcement work. It's demeaning to have them involved in anything that doesn't have the government's interests at heart."
In August 2005, Anthony Dichio was dismissed as US marshal in Boston by the White House after the office of the inspector general recommended that he be disciplined for repeatedly failing to work full work weeks and for misusing his official vehicle. Dichio was removed from the $130,300-a-year job 10 months after The Boston Globe published a story citing the observations of two reporters that Dichio was often not at his office. That prompted the Marshals Service to request the investigation by the inspector general's office.
Amid criticism that Dichio, a former State Police officer, was not fit to hold the marshal's post and only won it because of political connections, the US Marshals Service has relied on people, like Bonner, who have spent their careers with the agency to fill the vacancy until a permanent replacement is found.
Bonner previously worked in the US Marshals Service's internal affairs section in Washington, investigating alleged wrongdoing by deputy marshals. Last year, Reed Hillman, a former State Police commander who ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor in 2006, was nominated for the US Marshals Service. But Senators Edward M. Kennedy and John F. Kerry have opposed it, saying he lacks qualifications. He has yet to win confirmation.
Megan Woolhouse of the Globe staff contributed to this report.