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Former acting chief probation officer Christopher Hoffman appears headed for trial on obstruction of justice

An obstruction of justice case against the former acting chief probation officer of Hampshire Superior Court appears to be heading for trial nearly a year after charges were lodged.

In a joint filing, federal prosecutors and an attorney for Christopher J. Hoffman of Hatfield, said they do not believe a resolution short of trial is likely. They said a trial would likely run five to seven days in U.S. District Court.

Hoffman was removed from his job in October 2011 and arrested two months later on charges that he harassed a fellow probation officer who is a witness in a federal investigation into corrupt hiring practices in the state’s probation department.

A criminal complaint alleges Hoffman made threatening and intimidating remarks to probation officer Maureen Adams, whom he supervised.

Federal prosecutors say Hoffman knew Adams was going to be interviewed by the FBI as part of its hiring corruption probe, and allegedly told her, “I will tell everyone that you are a rat,” and “You will be in jail within a week.”

Hoffman remains on unpaid leave, and his attorney, Vincent A. Bongiorni of Springfield, has said he maintains his innocence.

In a related development, an arbiter ruled in September that Hoffman’s job is one of 10 probation jobs that must be reposted after evidence suggested that other candidates had been unfairly passed over for transfers or promotions in favor of those with political connections and fewer qualifications.

Hoffman is one of two Hatfield men indicted in the ongoing federal corruption probe. In March 2012, William H. Burke III was one of three former state probation officials indicted by the Department of Justice for his alleged role in helping to establish a “rigged hiring system” that favored job applicants with ties to influential state legislators.

Burke, a former supervisor of district court probation offices for western Massachusetts, pleaded not guilty in U.S. District Court in Worcester to 10 counts of mail fraud and one count of racketeering conspiracy.

He was charged along with his former boss, Probation Commissioner John J. O’Brien, and another top former commissioner, Elizabeth V. Tavares.

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