Closing arguments have started in the federal trial of former state probation commissioner John O'Brien and two deputies accused of rigging the agency's hiring process.

O'Brien, William Burke and Elizabeth Tavares are accused of trying to curry favor with powerful lawmakers by funneling jobs to politically connected applicants at the expense of more qualified candidates.

The prosecutor told jurors on Tuesday that the defendants cheated people out of jobs and cheated the people of Massachusetts out of having the most qualified probation officers.

Defense attorneys will make their closing arguments later Tuesday.

Prior to closing arguments, U.S. District Court Judge William Young instructed jurors that patronage itself is not a crime, but that they could find the defendants guilty should they find that jobs were filled through ``illegal means.''