A federal judge has agreed to remove himself from the trial of former state probation commissioner John O'Brien and two ex-colleagues.

    O'Brien, Elizabeth Tavares and William Burke are accused in a federal indictment with rigging the hiring process at the probation department to favor candidates promoted by the powerful state lawmakers.

    U.S. District Court Judge Douglas Saylor said in Thursday's ruling that he'd reluctantly agreed to recuse himself from the case and delay the trial from March 24 to April 28.

    The move came after defense attorneys said they intended to call another Massachusetts federal judge, Timothy Hillman, as a witness during the trial.

    Saylor said he considers Hillman a friend and noted the two judges spoke on a near daily basis over a six-year period when both worked at the federal courthouse in Worcester. (Associated Press)