Why were teenage sexual-assault victims named?

Not long after I wrote about the Boston Globe and Cape Cod Times stories regarding congressional candidate Jeff Perry’s ties to former Wareham police officer Scott Flanagan, who illegally conducted strip searches of two teenage girls in 1992, Julie Manganis posted a comment in which she asked an important question: Why did the Times name the two victims, who were 16 and 14 at the time they were assaulted?

“Does the Times now have a policy of identifying victims of sexual crimes, even when the girls are minors?” asked Manganis.

I put the question to the reporter, George Brennan, who in turn referred it to his editor, Paul Pronovost. Here is Pronovost’s answer:

While the Cape Cod Times typically does not name the victims of crimes, we make exceptions when the news warrants. Here’s a link to a recent ombudsman column on the subject, though not related to the Perry story.

You should be aware the girls’ names have been in the public domain for years; you will find published accounts in the Enterprise papers and the Standard Times in New Bedford long before Saturday’s CCT story.

Of course, we don’t justify our decision on the basis of what others do. For the CCT, the compelling factor was the rights of the accused to face his/her accuser. We concluded that publishing the full facts — including the names of those who made the allegations regarding the Wareham police — outweighed privacy issues in detailing the civil action. We gave a full airing of the case and its chronology, including speaking with the father of one of the girls. I believe the story stands as a fair record of what happened and our readers can decide what it means to them in the context of the congressional race.

I did some checking, and found that the Standard Times did indeed name both victims on at least one occasion — on Nov. 29, 1995, when the older of the victims won a civil suit against the Wareham Police Department. The Enterprise newspapers, based on the Cape, recently named the 16-year-old. It’s clear from the context that those papers named one or both victims in 2002 as well.

This strikes me as remarkable. It is highly unusual for news organizations to identify sexual-assault victims, let alone victims who were also minors. Pronovost is right that the names have been out there for many years. I’d be interested in knowing how that happened.

Finally, you may be interested in this long take on the case by Falmouth lawyer Richard Latimer, who blogs for Cape Cod Today. Latimer, as you will see, is no fan of Perry, a Republican state representative who hopes to succeed retiring congressman Bill Delahunt. But Latimer seems to have read every document, and he quotes from them at length.

Perry was a Wareham police sergeant in 1992, when Flanagan assaulted the two girls. Perry has never been charged or found civilly liable in connection with the cases, and has denied that his resignation from the department stemmed from his failure to bring Flanagan to heel.

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10 thoughts on “Why were teenage sexual-assault victims named?

  1. Rich Latimer

    Dan

    One important correction here. Technically, Perry was not found civilly liable as a named defendant in the Adams case. But the jury did specifically find that the Town was liable for Flanagan’s indecent misconduct based on a policy of “deliberate indifference” within the police department.

    In this specific case, that policy of deliberate indifference was implemented by none other than Sergeant Jeffrey D. Perry, who was present at the first incident in May 1991, and who tried to cover up the second incident in December 1992 by lying for Flanagan, to the girl’s family, to Captain Cardalino and then on a written report that the Captain told him to write.

    The jury therefore had to find that Perry was aware of what Flanagan was doing as the basis for finding the Town liable for the policy of deliberate indifference. Without such a determination based on the evidence, the jury could not find the Town liable, as there was no other supervisory officer present when Flanagan molested the two girls.

    Perry was there on the scene in May 1991, and there was ample evidence that the girl was crying and screaming, while Perry was in close proximity in a position to both hear her and see what Flanagan was doing -and to stop him if he had been inclined to do so.

    As to the second incident in December 1992, Perry was the patrol sergeant on duty when Flanagan molested the girl, he was then recruited by Flanagan to go to the girl’s house wihtout reporting first to the Captain, and then told the parents the outright lie that he was present when Flanagan detained the girl and she voluntarily stripped “for us.” He later repeated that lie to Cardalino.

    That was the evidence on which the jury found, as fact, that the Town had a policy of deliberate indifference to Flanagan’s predations, and that policy was in these cases carried out by his supervising officer on duty, Sgt. Jeffrey D. Perry. There’s no getting around that because there was no other supervisory police officer involved in either of these two incidents.

    1. Dan Kennedy Post author

      @Rich: I want you to know that I read every word of your piece. What you call a correction I call a matter of interpretation. Perry was not found civilly liable. If you want to argue that he was found liable by proxy, well, that’s your right.

  2. L.K. Collins

    “Perry has never been charged or found civilly liable in connection with the cases, and has denied that his resignation from the department stemmed from his failure to bring Flanagan to heel.”

    And your point for continuing the non-story — your term Dan — is?

    Sorry, you biases are showing again.

    Why not pursue Phillip Johnston’s (D) role in bringing this story to the fore and flogging it for all it is worth.

    Didn’t Johnston LOSE the race for this seat to Delahunt?

    And isn’t Delahunt doing a cut-an-run to avoid facing his constituency, as he has done repeatedly throughout his tenure, and isn’t Johnston shilling for a (D) replacement?

    You love to point out that all stories have context.

    You seem to be avoiding THE key context of this story.

    Is there a reason?

  3. BP Myers

    “There is competent evidence that Sgt. Perry was in close proximity to Flanagan’s strip search of the young girl, in a position to hear Flanagan’s demands and the girl’s protests as well as see what Flanagan was doing. Flanagan was not disciplined or even reported by Sgt. Perry for this conduct.”

    - Report of Sgt. Robert T. Kelliher, Mass. State Police, CPAC, March 15, 2003.

    Scumbag.

  4. Dan Farnkoff

    According to Latimer, Perry lied to the parents of the girl who was accosted by Flanagan outside the convenience store, telling them that he was present for the search. Criminal conviction or not, that’s pretty darn sketchy (illegal?) behavior. Did Perry deny lying to the girl’s parents?

  5. Julie Manganis

    Dan, thanks for the followup. I’m not at all convinced that the Cape Cod Times made the right call, and the explanation seems a bit strained, particularly the assertion that the newspaper was concerned with protecting the rights of the accused to confront his accuser. Frankly, the now-30-something-year-old women are not the ones raising this issue again; presumably this is coming from political opponents, so in this context (a political campaign) the victims are not really the accusers. Further, if you take the explanation to its logical end, you end up naming all victims/accusers in all cases.

    It’s interesting that the Boston Globe chose not to use the names, acceding to the wishes of the families.

  6. L.K. Collins

    Of course Ms. Manganis, it is coming up in a political context.

    The context that our host continues to choose to treat as if it doesn’t exist.

    Wonder why?

    Let’s hope Dan is equally apolitical when the trials of Diane Wilkerson (D) and Chuck Turner (D) and Sal DiMasi (D) come up later this year.

    Somehow I think the critiques will be a little less strident.

  7. Michael Pahre

    Has anybody asked the two victims if they consent now to having their names included in the stories?

    I could easily imagine that they would object in the years following 1992, but might now have changed their mind. If they now consented to being named, then no further discussion is needed.

  8. Brad Deltan

    @Michael Pahre – since when do newspapers care…one way or the other…what the people they’re writing about, think about what’s being written? That’s a rather slippery slope, wouldn’t you say?

  9. Jack Coleman

    The Cape Cod Times sat on this story back in September 2002, when Perry was running for state representative. I should know, I was the political reporter at the Times and did plenty of legwork, only to be told by an editor that it wasn’t newsworthy.

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