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.