By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Together again

In an irony that only media junkies could appreciate, Boston Herald reporter Dave Wedge today grills Bristol County District Attorney Paul Walsh over his office’s decision to drop a drunken-driving case against a “politically connected socialite.”

It was Wedge’s reliance on sources in Walsh’s office (including Walsh himself) that led the Herald to lose a $2.1 million libel case brought by Superior Court Judge Ernest Murphy, who objected to being portrayed as a “heartless” judge who “demeaned” victims of crime. (As I argued at the time, Wedge’s reliance on those sources should have cleared him under the Supreme Court’s Times v. Sullivan standard. The verdict is currently under appeal.)

The socialite, by the way, is Suzanne Magaziner, the wife of Ira Magaziner, best known as the principal architect of Hillary Clinton’s failed universal health-care proposal.

A final irony is that Walsh lost his bid for re-election in the Democratic primary last September. He’ll be replaced by the victor, Sam Sutter, in a few weeks.

The Sun Chronicle of Attleboro covers the Walsh-Magaziner story here.

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  1. Greg Reibman

    Dave Wedge rocks.

  2. Dan Kennedy

    Greg: You know what? He does. The guy is a force of nature.

  3. Anonymous

    EB3Dan, in my humble opinion this Herald story is a a good example of bad reporting that is systemic.Here’s whyFirst, In lead paragraph Wedge tells us the case was dismissed although she twice flunked breathalyzer and and failed four filed sobriety tests.The rest of the story fails to mention anything about the field sobriety tests. The specifics are in the police report. That is what the jury would hear. People are convicted of that alone all the time.The only thing that stinks more than this case is Wedge’s reporting.Or perhaps the police report indicated that she did well on the field sobriety tests. Wedge kust asks more questions than he answers. “But Walsh said his prosecutor, Roger Ferris, decided he had little chance to win the case, mainly because the DA’s office couldn’t get reports proving the accuracy of the breath test machine used in the April 4 arrest. Another factor was that Magaziner had no prior OUI charges, he added.”That’s it. That is all he mentions about the facts that are used to determine if someone is guilty. Didn’t any alarms go off in Wedge’s head? Having no prior record has nothing to do with this.Why weren’t the breathalyzer records in order? Shouldn’t there been info on that? And a quote from the responsible agency?But what instead does Wedge do? He recites statements she made that have nothing to do with sobriety. (accept admission to drinking 2 glasses of wine)When innocent people are arrested it is not unreasonable for some to become angry and express that anger at the arresting officer.Uncooperative? A good defense atty uses that to his advantage. Wedge mails it in and gives us quotes from Ron Bersani. What the hell does he know? There are plenty of experienced lawyers out there who could tell you that this stinks. Unless of course Wedge is not disclosing all the facts.But if I was his editor I would send it back with a lot of red ink.This is investigative journalism?Blue Mass Group has more credibility than the Herald.

  4. Dan Kennedy

    EB3: I looked up the Sun Chronicle story (and linked to it) to see whether it had anything that the Herald missed. I’d have to say that the answer is “no.” For what it’s worth.

  5. Anonymous

    here’s a link to the sidebar with the info about the failed sobriety tests:

  6. Rick in Duxbury

    The unexamined irony is that Walsh himself had a little difficulty a few years back on I-195 in RI, with a single car accident resulting in a tow over the state line to MA. Amount of damage should have resulted in a police report at the time but for some reason, he wanted to wait until the next morning. (Hmmmm..) Also, back in the day when it mattered, he fathered at least one child “out of wedlock”, (sounds charmingly archaic now), thus undercutting his credibility on lecturing about the social results of disfunctional families. Both items were reported at the time, in the Herald, I believe. Somehow, I suspect the defeated DA will survive just fine.

  7. Anonymous

    this EB3 guy is pretty lame and foolish if he predicates a whole attack on wedge’s article without having noticed the LARGE BOXED SIDEBAR outlining in heavy detail the field sobriety reports and other observations by the arresting cop. and this guy is talking about someone else needing an editor? what a maroon. then he gets full of dudgeon because there’s no dissertation on the history of breathalyzer equipment testing paperwork. that might make a good follow up story but given that we know that these cases are routinely prosecuted without that paperwork it’s hardly a key issue here — the key is that walsh got bumped off the prosecutorial beam. bersani’s quotes are lame but the essential truth is that drunk drivers are killers wielding massive weapons and this case in which evidence abounded should have gone to a jury on that principle alone.

  8. o-fish-l

    Not to beat the drum but I am a “Retired city Police Detective.” While in uniform in the mid to late 90s, I lead my own city in OUI arrests for many years, not by headhunting but by being assigned-to busy roads and being sent to accidents that ulitmately were caused by drunken drivers.The Magaziner case is troubling. Any friend of yours who’s a cop will advise you not to take the breathalyzer if you think you could be above a .08. Until recently it was .10 but now it is even lower. That is about 3 beers in two hours for the average guy I know. The reason not to take the test is that .08 and above is essentially by statute, an automatic conviction. EB3 leaves out the State Police union attorney Tim Burke, a former Superior Court prosecutor quoted in the Wedge piece, who said that the breathalyzer reading alone should have meant the case went to trial. I agree with Atty. Burke.In the 100 or so OUI arrests I effected, I remember only one where an above the legal limit test-result caused me concern. The test operator (cell block officer) had not allowed the sample solution enough time to warm up. Under state rules & regs (which have the effect of law) the breathalyzer must be calibrated every time with a sealed sample solution that should always read between .09 and .11. It needs to warm up inside the machine (which looks like a small computer printer with air-tube) for about five minutes. This cell-block officer rushed it and the solution sample warmed only to a .08. The defense attorney wasn’t sharp enough to pick this up and the breath test was never called into question.If this happened in the Magaziner case and her defense attorney noticed and sought dismissal, kudos to her atty, but I have never seen Troopers make this mistake. In fact, it is the Troopers who teach the locals how to use the breathalyzer. This in no way suggests that Troopers are better than locals in any aspect of law-enforcement, except traffic violations such as OUI etc.The BIGGER question is that if somehow it was proven that the entire breatalyzer machine at that barracks, (not just Magaziner’s particular sample) was defective then all OUI convictions from that barracks must immediately be thrown out.This is where Wedge failed miserably. Was it a bad solution sample for Ms. Magaziner, or a bad breathalyzer machine that may have resulted in thousands of false convictions?Personally, I think it was neither and that would be an even bigger scandal. Yet the surface has barely been scratched here. It seems to me that for Atty. Burke (the Troopers Attorney) to go on record to the Herald, the Trooper must be confident that the breath test and its results were legitimate. If that is the case and records or reports were altered, we have the makings of a Federal case and prison time for the folks responsible.I know times are tight, but Herald Publisher Purcell should allow Wedge, or better yet Wedge and Howie Carr, to spend a few weeks on this. No other reporting, just this. Wedge’s piece was shallow, but the shovel is here to dig deeper, perhaps deep enough to dig the graves of high officials. To me, this one stinks.

  9. Anonymous

    EB3 hereThnaks for checking in Dave (anon 12;43) you are right. I don’t have an editor, plus this is not my real job. I f i had the time and resources like Wedge and McPhee, well.but, the bigger story is..cases are not thrown out because of bad breathalyzer readings. Only the breath thest evidence is inadmissable.This case was a bag job. No reason for dismissal. it was dismissed. The breathalyzer is a red herring.Sorry for not being clear. But I am not a professional, Wedge is. He never put these facts in context. He never understood the facts. There is a real miscarriage of justice but Wedge was lazy and doesn’t understand why.sorry anon 12:15. I fyou do need to hear from Ron Bersani as to how dangerous drunk driving is in order to better understand this story well, that speaks more about you then me.

  10. Anonymous

    I do not care one bit about this story even though I wish this lady would face the justice like any regular person and desrves to.So since I didn;t read anything about it, is DSS involved in this? How old are her kids? What kind of Mother gets hammered and gets behind a wheel. Would she be trusted to drive her kids around?oooops, sorry, she is very rich and connected, DSS don’t knock on those doors.This harping on the technicalities is like a robber/murderer getting off because the arresting officer didn’t test the suspect’s knife how sharp it is or gun if it is jammed or not.”Your honor, my client did intend to go rob said bank and did plan to brandish said weapon, but the officers failed to prove if the weapons would hvae indeed been deadly”Yeah right! DUI is DUI. Regular joe shmoes should revolt -well not really they shouldn’t- or get the same expensive lawyer. It might be worth it to spend the extra bucks on the fancy lawyer and the “right” contributions through magaziner to not have your license yanked and not be able to make any money.(NB: That’s scarsm, for the impaired among us.)Ridiculous. She should be punished. The DA – is it Nyfong?- should climb down. Or is it too late? Double Jeopardy?N.

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