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

A non-story about Perry and strip searches

Jeff Perry

What did Cape Cod congressional candidate Jeff Perry know about a police officer who twice conducted illegal strip searches of teenage girls when they were both members of the Wareham force?

If you read today’s Boston Globe story, you might think the answer is “a great deal.” Perry denies it, but given the facts as described by reporters Donovan Slack and Frank Phillips, his explanation doesn’t seem all that credible.

But if you read George Brennan’s more detailed account in the Cape Cod Times, you might be inclined to give Perry the benefit of the doubt. It’s not that the facts are substantially different — it’s that the fuller narrative makes Perry’s denial come off as plausible.

Perry, a Republican state representative from Sandwich, is hoping to succeed U.S. Rep. Bill Delahunt, a Quincy Democrat, who’s retiring. The last thing a candidate for public office needs is to be linked to strip searches of teenage girls. Based on Brennan’s reporting, though, this looks like a non-story.

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  1. BP Myers

    Hmm. Not sure how “I did not observe anything inappropriate” jibes with “It did not occur in my presence.”

    And then there’s this gem:

    “Perry told her parents that officers had seen their daughter with a substance that looked like oregano on her shirt.”

    He’s a liar. And he’s toast.

  2. Julie Manganis

    I’m more than a little troubled by the Cape Cod Times story for several reasons, the most significant of which is the fact that they named both of the girls who were victimized by Flanagan. If I understand the Boston Globe story, Flanagan was charged criminally with indecent assault and battery. That is, he was charged with a form of sexual assault. Did the Cape Cod Times consider this issue before throwing the names out there? Did the paper consult with either of them? Does the Times now have a policy of identifying victims of sexual crimes, even when the girls are minors?

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Julie: Great point. I hope George will respond.

  3. BP Myers

    As an aside, I went to read the comments section beneath the Globe article . . . and there wasn’t one. Seeing this more and more, the Globe not deigning to allow readers to comment on their own reporting.

    I’d argue that, among other things, comment sections allow the public to vent a little, and personally would have been interested to read folks’ take on this cop cum politician who obviously covered up the wrongdoing of others.

    And I’d also be curious exactly what the Globe policy is on determining when they will or won’t allow comments on stories, or if they even have one.

  4. L.K. Collins

    It is interesting that Dan elects to lead his comments with the part of the story that paints Jeffery Perry (R-Sandwich) in the worst possible light and buries the comment that the Cape Cod Times article (whose normal beat includes Wareham) gives Perry’s explanation plausibility far down in his musings.

    I wonder what point of view Dan is trying to push here?

    And I wonder whether or not Dan’s credentials as a journalist are suffering as a result of his being locked in the hallowed halls of academia? (Remember the old chestnut: Those who can, do; those who can’t teach.)

    Perhaps it would be best for Dan to stick commenting on affairs in the Danvers area where it is plausible that he may actually know what he is talking about.

    I fully recognize that Dan has an intense political dislike of anyone with an (R) after his name, but that is no excuse for cheap shots when he knows (or suspects) that his position is, at best, strained.

    • Dan Kennedy

      A characteristically perverse interpretation given that my only, and quite obvious, purpose in writing this item was to guide Globe readers to better information that I’d tracked down.

      Do you catch the word “non-story” in my headline, @L.K.?

  5. Mary DeChillo

    What exactly does a private investigator do on the Cape? I find it an odd choice of career. A friend of mine who was a former NYC police officer became a private investigor for a time but found he couldn’t stand prying into people’s private lives. It bothered him that he was playing a role in situations that were at best grey in their ethics.

    I may have a limited understanding of the role (I know they are also involved in investigating malpractice and worker’s compensation claims). Perhaps someone can enlighten me as to what private investigators do. I just find it a little creepy that people actually make a living (and a profit) on the travails of individuals.

  6. L.K. Collins

    But in doing so, Dan, as you well and truly understand, you are trying to MAKE it a story.

    If it was a non-story, why not leave it alone?

    Isn’t that what non-stories deserve?

    What point are your trying to illustrate?

    That the Cape Cod Times is better at its beat than the Globe? Or that the Globe has biased or incomplete presentation?

    Why not make that the lead instead of skewing the presentation to make the person with the (R) after his name look bad? In your presentation, the cart became the horse, and the horse became the cart.

    Your choice here is what makes comments of media bias have traction.

  7. L.K. Collins

    Ms. DeChillo, private investigators do things like skip tracing individuals, preliminary investigations for embezzlement and fraud, due diligence on potential investors and investments, a whole host of information-gathering tasks, all for a fee.

  8. Dan Farnkoff

    The Times story doesn’t really make Perry sound that much more credible, IMO. Seems pretty much like a “thin blue line” thing- all cops are “good fellas” to other cops. And does Perry always talk about himself in the third person (“there’s nothing about what Jeff Perry did that night…”)?

  9. Mary DeChillo

    Thank you L.k. Collins for the clarification of what a private investigator does. so it is more than following manrried spouses around in hopes to catch them in the act.

  10. Dan Hamilton

    I’m no Perry fan and do not intend to vote for him in this race. But as a (retired) journalist I was troubled even by the CC Times story, much less the Globe article (which I read later).

    Both are very close to non-stories for the reasons already articulated here. The Times played it really big — front page above the fold. I’m not saying they should not have done the reporting, but at the risk of sounding like Collins [g], putting it on the front does turn it into a story whether it deserves it or not.

    Interestingly the other big lapse of best practices (in my opinion) is that the Times allowed Perry to strongly imply that his election opponents had somehow planted or spread the story. Obviously I don’t know if they did or not, but they were not asked and so could not respond.

    If the legitimate point of the reporting is that rumors and innuendo should be exposed to the light and sorted out, the story fell short and contributed to the problem.


    • Dan Kennedy

      @Dan Hamilton: Based on my reading of Cape Cod blogs related to the Perry matter, I think it’s safe to say that people who oppose him politically were at least partly responsible for surfacing this story at this time.

  11. Dan Hamilton


    I’ll defer to your more thorough reading on the topic, but shouldn’t the Times at least have called the other campaigns for comment?


  12. Bob Gardner

    It’s a story. How often does a police officer get sentenced to jail for assault on a minor? Perry’s involvement in these two incidents is something the electorate has a right to know.
    Especially since Perry can’t think of anything he would do differently. Two teenage girls are sexually assaulted by an officer under his command who is then sentenced to four years in jail, and even after 18 years he can’t think of anything he would do differently? Like maybe not signing the petition when he knew that the officer had been involved in two incidents in six months? Or maybe being a little skeptical the second time when the officer came to him?
    I agree with you, Dan, to the extent that there is more than one way to interpret this story, and that people may agree with the father of one of the victims, that this isn’t any big deal. But I think the father of the other victim also has a point. The Cape Cod Times story in no way rebuts the Globe story, which if anything was the more thorough of the two. And the Times story doesn’t turn the Globe story into a non-story.

  13. Dan Kennedy

    @Bob: It just seems to me that at some point you have to take a look at what the justice system found and show some respect for that. Perry wasn’t criminally charged. He wasn’t found civilly liable. I mean, we can re-litigate the two cases, but those are the facts.

    You know what would do it for me? If there were evidence that Perry’s resignation was a result of his actions in either one (or both) of the cases. I wouldn’t mind seeing some follow-ups.

  14. L.K. Collins

    “Perry wasn’t criminally charged. He wasn’t found civilly liable.”

    So this has all the appearance of a political hatchet job.

    Brings me back to the point that I made in my initial comment:

    “I wonder what point of view Dan is trying to push here?”

    So far we haven’t gotten a straight answer out of Dan.

  15. Mary DeChillo

    Prosecutors have wide latitude about what they want to bring before a grand jury. If the the D.A. doesn’t think there is sufficient evidence to win a case, they don’t bring it before the grand jury. That doesn’t mean an absence of evidence, it just means the case would be difficult to prosecute and might result in a loss for the DA.

  16. L.K. Collins

    A quick reminder:

    In America, the defendant in a criminal case is innocent until found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

    Prosecutor can’t convict? Innocent. PERIOD.

    I America, civil suits are adjudged on the basis of the prep0nderance of the the evidence, i.e., 50.01%

    Perry not at fault in a civil trial or not brought to trial at all under the civil statutes? Any case against Perry was so weak as to be a joke.

    So, now according to the law as determined by duly elected officials that Mr. Perry has no liability.

    Why is the question again being raised? Under the guise that the Globe and the Cape Cod Times are at odd?

    What’s odd is the continued political thumb-placing of a non-story being fanned into a fantastic non-story.

    I guess we may just hear how this non-story went viral from the humble blog a poor, misunderstood, media critic with a place to beat t cymbal of this non-story on the humble Beat-the-Press this coming Friday.

  17. Bob Gardner

    @ Dan, I don’t want to re-litigate, but I don’t want to keep chasing these endlessly moving goalposts either. I just don’t see what about the Perry story makes it a non-story. He’s running for Congress. Do we delete everything from the discussion of his record except court verdicts?
    Of course everyone is free to interpret the facts, question the outcome of the litigation, or even point out that Phil Johnston once lost an election to Bill Delahunt.
    When Amy Bishop was arrested, the 15-year-old story of the shooting of her brother was treated as the biggest story in years, even though there was no finding in that case of civil or criminal liablity.
    What if Amy Bishop had not shot those people in Alabama, but instead announced she was running for Congress. Would he involvment in her brother’s death been a non story because the prosecutor did’t have a case, and there was no civil liablity?
    Like I said, I don’t want to re-litigate. I have no desire to see Mr Perry dragged into court and this case shouldn’t be on his CORI. But the voters should know what happened and have a chance to draw their own conclusions.

    • Dan Kennedy

      Do we delete everything from the discussion of his record except court verdicts?

      @Bob: Who’s deleting? I’ve posted links to everything I’ve found. As you may have noticed, I’m being criticized for not burying my head in the sand. I don’t see where we go from here, but it’s on the record, and people are free to make up their own minds. I’m not aware that Phil Johnston has been pushing it, and in fact I heard today from a prominent Cape Cod Republican who thinks the media should be tougher on Perry. If Johnston is involved, I don’t see why it matters.

      @Julie: If I were making the call, I would also not have used the names of the victims. I’m not outraged because the names were, in fact, already out there. But I agree with you that it was the wrong decision.

  18. Bob Gardner

    @Dan, I thought that by labelling it a “non-story” you were implying that it should not have been published. If I misconstrued that term I apologize. Can you clarify for me what you meant by “non-story”?
    As for the people (person?) urging you to bury your head in the sand, they are wrong; you are right. Speaking of which. . .
    @ l.k.collins-“Prosecutor can’t convict? Innocent. PERIOD.”
    Good point. Would you apply the same standard to Bill Ayers?

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Bob: A definition of “non-story”? Hmmm … OK, how about this? “An interesting tidbit, not likely to lead anywhere.” Never suggested it shouldn’t have been published. And if anyone’s got anything new, follow-ups are welcome, too.

  19. Dan, isn’t a “non-story” by definition one that should not have been published?

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Jack: You and I could flip through just about any newspaper you’d like to name and find non-stories on every page. If you look back through this thread, you’ll find my definition of a non-story. We’ll see if anyone manages to advance this to the point where Perry’s fitness for office is seriously called into question. (I mean because of this. As far as I’m concerned, he’s already disqualified himself with his Arizona wanna-be shtick.)

  20. @Dan: I saw how you defined “non-story” and that’s what I was responding to. I don’t think this is how the term is generally understood (“an interesting tidbit, not likely to lead anywhere”). My interpretation is that the person saying it, or writing it, does not think the story was worthy of publication or broadcast in the first place. But I see what you mean – non-stories do enter the public domain and aren’t stories by virtue of having done so.

    I agree with you, BTW, that the victims should not have been identified.

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