Herald taken to task on sexual-assault stories

John Carroll takes the Boston Herald to task for two stories about underage sexual-assault victims — one of whom is a 14-year-old girl described as allegedly having an “affair” with a 30-year-old school security officer (it’s called rape, people), the other depicted (but not named) in a photo in the print edition.

“Something’s out of whack at the feisty local tabloid,” writes Carroll.

35 thoughts on “Herald taken to task on sexual-assault stories

  1. Neil Sagan

    “it’s called [statutory] rape, people” if she consented freely. Becuase the Herald did not report any facts asserted she was coerced, I think we can assume she did consent freely. Rape connotes the opposite.

  2. BP Myers

    @Neil Sagan says: Becuase the Herald did not report any facts asserted she was coerced, I think we can assume she did consent freely. Rape connotes the opposite.

    A fourteen-year-old cannot legally consent to sexual relations.

  3. L.K. Collins

    While I agree with Carroll’s assessment of The Herald‘s mixed phraseology, need I point out the an accused in this country is still innocent until proven guilty?

    Truth is an illusive thing, as our esteemed host has often found out.

  4. Jack Sullivan

    Actually, there is no such thing as “statutory rape” in Massachusetts law. Try to find it in the General Laws. You won’t. It’s a defense lawyer’s made-up term to sell consent to a jury, as in “oh, sure, they call it rape but it’s only because it says so in the statute. But we know what happened (wink, wink).” It. softens the actions to the jury by qualifying it as statutory. Unfortunately, it has become a commonly used and accepted phrase both in courts and in the media. It is generally accepted by child behavioral experts and thus codified into law that a child under the age of 15 cannot “freely consent” to sex because he or she does not have the capabilities to assess the choices and consequences. It is similar to an adult with diminished mental capacity, either biological or through substance impairment. It’s rape, pure and simple, if someone cannot or did not consent. We don’t have statutory homicide or statutory robbery. Did we use the term during the clergy sex abuse when 13 or 14 year old altar boys did not stop a priest from abusing them because they were terrified? No, we called it rape because that’s what it was.

  5. Neil Sagan

    @Neil: Statutory rape is rape. Good grief.

    I never said otherwise. I simply suggested there’s a valid distinction to be made between a rape, because one of the people is a minor, and rape because one of the people did not consent.

    Good grief yourself. Why is this feedback such a bother for you?

  6. Neil Sagan

    @BP Myers She cannot give consent by law but she can give her consent or not to the person she is having sex with/being raped by.

  7. Neil Sagan

    Jack. The phrase ‘statutory rape’ refers to the statute that says a person of a certain age or younger having sex is by definition rape, their consent notwithstanding. When talking about “statutory rape” it seems reasonable to be able to describe whether the minor consented or not.

  8. Christian Avard

    Lots to say.

    I agree with Dan that 14 year-olds don’t have affairs with older men. They just don’t. IMO, the security guard, Tyrone Farrar, groomed the alleged victim and used a means of power and control (why does he have a 9 mm semi-automatic on him in the first place?) to have sex with an underaged girl. That’s what it sounds like. But a judge will have to determine that … if it even goes to trial.

    Now for the devil’s advocate question. What if the alleged victim told police that an affair took place? If the Lawrence police relayed these same words the alleged victim told police then didn’t Mason do his job in reporting what officials told him? I’m just asking.

    Even though the alleged victim does not seem to grasp what Farrar did was a crime, if this is what the alleged victim told Lawrence PD, then the Lawrence PD should also have known better to explain to Mason why Farrar faces sexual crime charges. That would’ve been a major service to reporters and to the public. Mason could also have asked Lawrence PD “How is it that 14-year olds ‘have affairs’ with 30 year-old men? Doesn’t that constitute as statutory rape according to Mass state law?” Adding that context to the story would’ve cleared things up a lot.

    Mason missed an opportunity to responsibly report this important story and his editor (whoever that may be) should’ve known better to tell Mason that the alleged victims didn’t make any sense. Then again, Mason should’ve known better as well. Editors entrust their reporters to act independently and know how to ask these kinds of questions in the first place.

    Sigh…

    1. Dan Kennedy

      @Christian: Ledes are such a group effort at the Herald that I wouldn’t even bring Mason up. You raise good points, but under the scenario you outline, it’s still up to the news org to put the word “affair” in context.

  9. Bob Gardner

    @ L.K. Collins,
    Why is naming the editor of a newspaper that’s being criticized a cheap shot? Isn’t it the editor’s job to make sure his newspaper does things right?

  10. L.K. Collins

    Its gratuity, and the lack of context. You know, context, something that all good writing and opinion require.

    Cheap shot.

    I would also argue that Mr. Sciacca has far more newsroom experience than most and is far more of a measured and considered individual than your cheap shot would suggest.

  11. Neil Sagan

    Take for example the swiftboating of Kerry for where he docks his boat, and I do think the man was unreasonably pressured to pay $500,000 in taxes in a situation he was well within his rights to do what he did, and not for the purpose of avoiding taxes. The Herald published the story they made, not reserving judgment until the facts were in, but inferring motive instead. Last night Margery Eagan on Greater Boston blamed Kerry for it because she said, if he had answered their questions, they would have been nice to him. Under Joe, The Herald will print what it thinks, not what it knows. Moreover, its the subject’s fault. And who had the byline? Gossips columnists.

    1. Dan Kennedy

      @Neil: Of course Kerry was within his rights not to pay the tax. But he’s an elected official, and therefore symbolism is important. He finally got it.

  12. Neil Sagan

    It’s not just that “Kerry was within his rights not to pay the tax” he didn’t owe the tax. Turn it over. Who owes the tax? People who document their boats in MA ports. Is it common for people to document and dock their boats in states other than where they lice? Absolutely.

    If the Herald had information that demonstrated he chose Newport to avoid the tax then ok, run the story that way. But if not, they swiftboated him.

    If you listen to Eagan, she is making an excuse for the Herald and blaming the victim. She says, it’s Kerry fault he got that treatment.

    Regarding symbolism. If you don’t respond quickly and challenge the narrative when you’re being swifboated, then you lose your opportunity to do so.

    1. Dan Kennedy

      @Neil: Kerry should explain that to the guy who got nailed for buying beer in New Hampshire. He can ride that all the way to defeat in 2012. A better analogy: Why can’t I buy a car in New Hampshire, where there’s no sales tax, and register it there? The reason Kerry didn’t owe the tax is that there’s always a loophole for rich people, while the rest of us get screwed. That is not a proposition that’s politically advantageous to Kerry.

  13. BP Myers

    @Neil Sagan says: She cannot give consent by law but she can give her consent or not to the person she is having sex with/being raped by.

    Again, I don’t believe she can. Setting aside her lack of emotional maturity, as her “mentor” and basketball coach, this man had every opportunity to manipulate her just as surely as if he’d given her a date rape drug.

    But let’s let a jury figure that one out.

  14. “The Herald will print what it thinks, not what it knows. ” — Neil Sagan

    I doubt if there is any newspaper, anywhere, that can live up to the standard you imply. Certainly none in this country. Perhaps you could find one in Russia or China?

    The press is biased. Always was, always will be.

    In many ways, the press bias is what makes the political world go ’round.

  15. Neil Sagan

    I’m willing to stipulate she was or wasn’t manipulated to give her consent. It’s irrelevant in the realm of the law. And as you say, fact finders will determine that. But I think you fail to recognize that at some level, 14 year old girls can and do make decisions for themselves, regardless of how well informed they are or aren’t. Just ask the parent of a 14 year old girl. Kids much younger make choices. Word to you momma.

    “this man had every opportunity to manipulate her just as surely as if he’d given her a date rape drug.”

    Did he give her one or are you just making shit up? ‘opportunity’ does not equal ‘acted upon’ and as far as I can tell, there were no date rape drug involved.

    Don’t confuse my argument with approval. I do not. It’s simple: She may have consented, and if so, that is better than if she did not. Her consent would not change whether he is found guilty of “statutory rape”, the law is clear and he is the one subject to the consequences of enforcement.

  16. Neil Sagan

    What evidence did The Herald have that Kerry documented his boat in Newport RI in whole or in part to avoid paying MA taxes?

    I don’t think they had one bit other than the knowledge he lived in MA, had a vacation home in MA and documented and docked his boat in Newport RI. Is that enough fact to print a story that claims he did so to avoid taxes? I don’t think so. What substantiation did they have other than circumstantial? Fact is, none but it didn’t matter becuase the gossip columnists wrote it and they are held to a lower standard.

    Let’s ask Dan, if this were a story about say Walter Cronkite what evidence would the paper require before it ran with the story?

  17. Bob Gardner

    @ L.K. Collins,
    Your argument is less with me than it is with the dictionary. Look up “gratuitous”.
    It’s not gratuitous to name the editor of the newspaper that you are criticizing. Joe Sciacca is editor of the Herald. He’s the one in charge–the one who takes responsibility if things aren’t done right. And to the extent that the Herald isn’t doing things right, he’s off to a bad start.
    Criticizing the Herald without mentioning who is in charge would be like a cop pulling over a speeding car and–instead of giving a ticket to the driver– delivering a stern lecture to the engine, because he didn’t want to “gratuituously” involve the driver.
    Understand?

  18. BP Myers

    @Neil Sagan says: She may have consented, and if so, that is better than if she did not.

    Better in what way?

    1. Dan Kennedy

      @BP and @Neil: Here’s why we keep going around in circles. Under the law, there was no consent (keeping in mind that we’re talking about charges, not a conviction), because we have determined as a society that meaningful consent isn’t possible before a certain age. I think nearly everyone agrees with that, which is why many of us are offended by the notion that she “consented.” And yet, I think everyone would also agree that if she had been accosted and raped against her will, that would have been much worse.

  19. BP Myers

    @Dan Kennedy says: I think everyone would also agree that if she had been accosted and raped against her will, that would have been much worse.

    I think we’re going around in circles because we haven’t heard from women on the subject. But I’m not prepared to concede your point above.

    I can see a scenario wherein someone who was manipulated into doing something would feel guiltier about it later on (feeling that they indeed “consented”, when in fact they really did not) than someone who was accosted against their will, but put up a fight.

    But the direction this discussion has taken makes me feel a little skeevy, so on that, I’ll bow out.

  20. C. E. Stead

    Neal – Kerry had triggered the tax and DID owe it.

    If Dan’s friend buys a 6 pack in NH and drinks it there, he’s OK. If he brings it inot MA, he owes the sales and liquor tax.

    If Kerry had only sailed the boat out of Newport, he would not have owed the tax. But he docked it on Nantucket, triggering the sales and excise taxes – and the man behaved like a boor. As I said at the time, my friend Christy Mihos paid up immediately when he was called to task for docking the RI registered boat in West Yarmouth – so it’s not even like the issue had never been reported on recently.

    As far as slamming the Track Gals scoop – does that mean that John Edwards didn’t fool around either?

    1. Dan Kennedy

      @C.E. And if Kerry didn’t owe it, then he found a $500,000 rich guy’s loophole — also not good for a politician who’d like to get re-elected.

  21. Neil Sagan

    @Dan Kennedy-August9,2010at8:40am: Yes it would have been far worse

    @BP Myers says August9,2010at7:48am: Better in what way?

    Really, you have to ask? Being forced to have sex against your will is a very different experience than choosing to have sex with someone you have feelings for. The former is a violation of your being and a trauma that is hard to overcome. The latter is an amazing experience that keeps you coming back for more.

    @C. E. Stead says-August 9, 2010 at 2:33 pm: Neal – Kerry had triggered the tax and DID owe it… he docked it on Nantucket, triggering the sales and excise taxes

    It’s Neil. Do you have some links to the law and the facts establishing how he triggered it? If so, I’ll concede to your superior argument.

  22. Neil Sagan

    @Dan Kennedy says: August 9, 2010 at 2:36 pm “if Kerry didn’t owe it, then he found a $500,000 rich guy’s loophole”

    It is officially owned by a company named Great Point LLC in Pittsburgh, a property of a trust that benefits Kerry’s wife, Heinz Ketchup heiress Teresa Heinz Kerry.

    “If it was in Massachusetts two or three times, it would not surprise me if DOR went after a boat on that basis,’’ said Joe Donovan, former deputy counsel at the Department of Revenue.

  23. C.E. Stead

    Neil – Sorry for the spelling error. Here’s a link to a WBZ story stating that they had confirmed with the Nantucket Boat Basin (marina) that the boat had been docked there – http://wbztv.com/local/john.kerry.yacht.2.1825558.html

    There are photos on sites like Demotix of the boat docked at the marina for July 4th, but that’s just the Internet.

    When directly asked if he had docked the boat on Nantucket, Kerry replied, “It depends on who owns it”, which seems like a non-sequiteur, but may not have been in his mind.

    The DOR suspended its subpoena of the ship’s log when the money was paid, so there is no direct documentary evidence from the ship.

  24. Neil Sagan

    The DOR wanted to establish the boat was docked in MA 2 or 3 times to establish tax liability:

    “If it was in Massachusetts two or three times, it would not surprise me if DOR went after a boat on that basis,’’ said Joe Donovan, former deputy counsel at the Department of Revenue.

    You say the DOR dropped their subpoena. What evidence says this fact – 2 or 3 times – was established?

    Kerry answer, while a non-sequiteur, points to the question of who incurs the tax liability if any; he or Great Point LLC, a company controlled by a trust for the benefit of Teresa Heinz.

    Neither the Herald nor you have established the fact Kerry intended to be a tax scofflaw, and yet used that accusation to pressure him to take action to defend his reputation. That is the basis of my complaint about the journalism.

  25. C.E. Stead

    Neil – I had nothing to say about Kerry’s intentions. I only said he was seen on Nantucket with the boat, which triggered the liability. You asked for bona fides of the sighting, and I did my best to provide them (without even mentioing personal acquaintance that had seen the boat, as how could I ‘prove’ that?)

    I spoke only to the actuality of the debt, not the intent behind his failure to pay.

  26. Neil Sagan

    Point taken about you demonstrating intention.

    Still the facts we have do not indicate tax liability on two counts 1) whether it was in MA water enough to trigger liability and 2) whose tax liability it triggers

    I don’t think this is true:

    I only said he was seen on Nantucket with the boat, which triggered the liability.

    given this:

    “If it was in Massachusetts two or three times, it would not surprise me if DOR went after a boat on that basis,’’ said Joe Donovan, former deputy counsel at the Department of Revenue.

    My point is this the Herald should not state or imply he is a tax scofflaw until they have adequate proof that meets the standards of journalism.

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