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

What Jeff Perry saw

From the time the story re-surfaced last spring, the problem with trying to hold Republican congressional candidate Jeff Perry responsible for a rogue police officer’s illegal strip searches of two teenage girls was that the matter had already been thoroughly litigated.

Perry, a former Wareham police sergeant, was not directly charged in either of the two incidents. Nor has anyone been able to tie his subsequent resignation to his actions in those incidents. Perry’s Democratic opponent in the 10th Congressional District, Bill Keating, has been pounding away on the issue. But according to the polls, the race has remained close. No doubt to a lot of prospective voters, it sounded like typical campaign mudslinging.

That all changed yesterday. Now we have one of the victims declaring that Perry had to have known that then-police officer Scott Flanagan was sexually assaulting her one night in 1991 near a Wareham cranberry bog. “He had to hear me screaming and crying, said Lisa Allen in a statement, according to the Boston Globe. “Instead of helping me, Jeff Perry denied anything happened.”

The Cape Cod Times — which, along with the Patriot Ledger of Quincy, may be the most important local paper in the district — plays the story huge today beneath the headline “Strip-search victim blasts Perry.” As the Outraged Liberal notes, the Boston Herald relegates the story to Margery Eagan’s column — a questionable bit of news judgment, though Eagan, to her credit, is in high dudgeon. So is Globe columnist Joan Vennochi.

The online news site Cape Cod Today has pushed the Perry story relentlessly, and I take this as something of a victory lap.

If there is a congressional district in Massachusetts ripe for a Republican takeover, it is surely the 10th, a conservative part of the state that stretches from Quincy to Provincetown. The Republicans had a chance to pick nice guy Joe Malone, but instead went with Perry. No doubt many of them are regretting that decision today — but surely they knew something like this might happen.

What happened to Lisa Allen may have taken place a long time ago. But the questions she raises about Perry’s empathy and judgment are just as valid today as they were in 1991.

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  1. Neil Sagan

    Dan, An extremely well-written article. Thank you.

  2. Neil Sagan

    You and Joe were on Greater Boston together. Would he take your call today and explain the Herald’s reasoning for how it covered the Ms Allen news (as opinion) and why in their estimation, Barney Frank’s self-financed campaign, in small part is a bigger story (for their readers)? You might ask if they ever ran a story about Mitt’s self-financing too. Anyway the question is, would such a call be well received and produce some news-worthy information? Hats off to you and AnonLiberal.

  3. I really feel for this woman and anyone, frankly, who has had to deal with the police and their occasional brutality. If you see what is going on in New York these days …
    Jeff Perry strikes me as a total creep. I would never, ever vote for the guy. He had a responsibility to lead his team and not look the other way. And, even after looking the other way, he had the responsibility to own up to not being a leader, which he clearly did not do. He lied. No matter how bad things are, we expect cops to be honest and to serve and protect.
    In 24 hours, I haven’t stopped thinking about this situation even though I don’t live in the district … the killed radio ads, some of the comments from my friends, the relentless gotcha coverage, which is late in the game while other outlets have been talking and reporting this issue for months (in fact, a lot of this election cycle has been heavy on my mind).

    There are, however, two side issues that have really struck me:

    1) This was 19 years ago. At what time does a person who makes a terrible mistake not have everything hang over their head? If he actually assaulted the girl, we would all say, never. But, he didn’t (looking the other way would seem just as evil). Maybe it’s because he never apologized and continued to lie about it and that makes it OK to continue to bring this up. But why wasn’t this brought up eight years ago when he ran for state rep? Was it no big deal then but it is a big deal now? Why didn’t the woman come forward in August, before the primary?

    2) There is a major streak of hypocrisy running through all of this when you look at how some Democrats have acted towards women over the years. Ted Kennedy, for example, from the death of Mary Jo to the La Brasserie incident, where he and Chris Dodd reportedly sexually assaulted a waitress in 1985. There is the rape allegation by Juanita Broderick against Bill Clinton. There is the Paula Jones situation (although some folks don’t take that as seriously as the others because of Jones’ was lower middle-class). As we know from election results, those incidents didn’t matter. I heard women at the time say, “I don’t care. He’s pro-choice …” not unlike many Republicans are now saying, “I don’t care. Perry won’t vote for Pelosi …” With the Democrats, many voters, including women, completely looked the other way on those incidents even though the candidates were involved in the actual assaults. Considering the lack of voter action against Kennedy, Dodd, and Clinton, should we really be that repulsed or surprised that Republican voters looked the other way in the primary and are now standing by Perry? (BTW, the National Republican Congressional Campaign Committee even began circulating talking points about Keating’s “Troubling Record on Rape” yesterday, almost knowing that this woman would be coming forward at some point). This seems to be a continuing thread through our political process at a time when most folks in the United States believe that the long-term solutions to our problems are in the middle – not the extremes sides of both major political parties.

    The negativity in this election cycle, especially with the advertising, makes me wonder about things. I’ve been following this stuff since the 1970s when I was a boy attending NH primary activities with my parents and as a school student. I’ve really enjoyed politics – a lot. But I really understand why people walk away from all of this and want nothing to do with any of the political process – much to their own detriment. I will never understand not voting – it’s too important. But I can understand why people are fed up with all of this. It’s truly becoming revolting.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Tony: I can hazard an answer to your first question. My understanding is that this has come up in the Cape Cod press in every race Perry has ever run. How long does it hang over your heard? As long as you don’t come clean about what happened and apologize. Bad as this was, he could have put it behind him years ago if he’d chosen to do so.

  4. I don’t disagree with anything you’ve said Dan but I have to wonder…why is Bill Clinton, someone who has been accused of sexually harassing women, not held to the same standard? Why do Democrats give him a pass?

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Brian: Why would you say Clinton was not held to the same standard? His treatment of women was one of the top two or three issues in every race he ever ran, and he was damn near removed from office over it. Seems that whenever anything like this comes up, people are quick to say, well what about Clinton? What about Ted Kennedy? The fact is they paid a very heavy price politically. Maybe Kennedy should have paid a heavier price than he did legally, but that’s another matter.

  5. BP Myers

    @Tony Schinella says: There is a major streak of hypocrisy running through all of this when you look at how some Democrats have acted towards women over the years.

    If it’s any consolation, seems as if each party engages in their own hypocrisies. Democrats looking the other way when their own disrespect women, and Republicans looking the other way when “family values” candidates indulge in prostitution or gay dalliances.

    As Dan points out, this Perry business has come up in each election cycle. It is no doubt amplified this time by the current political stakes.

  6. B.A. DuBois

    Tony, a very well thought out and heartfelt piece… as to differing standards, let’s recall what Democratic strategist said about “dragging a hundred dollar bill” through a trailer park, and wonder why he’s still on television…

    Dan, just out of curiosity, I’m sure Ted Kennedy paid a price politically for causing a woman’s death, but a “very heavy price”? Really? Re-elected time after time, almost seizing the nomination of his party from an incumbent president, lionized as the “conscience of the Senate”? That’s a very heavy price?

    • Dan Kennedy

      @B.A.: Ted Kennedy would have been president were it not for Chappaquiddick — period. It was the major issue in his first re-election campaign after Chappaquiddick. As for the respect and affection he received, it took two generations for that to happen. You know, Ted Kennedy was not the first person to kill someone in a car accident. Just ask Laura Bush. I think there’s a good argument to be made that he paid too heavy a price, although, personally, I don’t think I would have wanted to see him in the White House.

  7. All good points folks.
    And I would agree with the “not coming clean” part of it. I’m just a little shocked this hasn’t sunk the guy before (not following it, I assumed it never got brought up!). And yes, he could have put this all behind him years ago.
    On TedK, he got a slap on the wrist for the criminal part and I believe made a monetary settlement to the family. But still, you’d think that would have crushed his re-election campaign for Senate.

  8. Dan,

    It should be noted that Laura Bush was not under the influence. A rather significant difference in terms of personal responsibility, legality and consequences, political or otherwise.


    • Dan Kennedy

      @Kevin: A fair point, though drunken driving didn’t have anywhere the stigma in 1969 that it does today. In general, though, Ted Kennedy’s critics pretend that Chappaquiddick was the only fatal car accident since Henry Ford starting making Model T’s.

  9. Mike Benedict

    Ohmygod: Are we seriously debating whether the actions of Ted Kennedy — the very-much-deceased Ted Kennedy — somehow lower the significance of the very-much-alive Jeff Perry who also, by the way, wants us to vote for him?

    Either Perry is worthy of a vote or he isn’t, and the more information we have to make that decision, the better. That’s the only issue here. Whether Kennedy paid an appropriate price for his role at Chappaquidick is completely irrelevant.

  10. C.E. Stead

    First – I both know Jeff Perry and have worked with him, so my objectivity is compromised. I helped him set up his first office in the State House, I went to the calling hours when his infant granddaughter died (he set up a foundation for SIDS after that – the little girl in his commercial is his second granddaughter, Faith). I regard him as a personal friend as well as a former professional colleague. I would like, however, to respond to some remarks here.

    First – the incident was brought up during Perry’s first run when he defeated incumbent Rep. Ruth Provost (D-Sandwich). That was ten years ago, and people were closer to the incident than they are now. Scott Flanagan, the officer who made the assault, was convicted and fired. At that time, Perry said what he says today – that he did not see anything, and that he believed Flanagan when he that the girl was exaggerating and that nothing happened – it is not unknown for persons in police custody to claim they were hurt. Then, another family came forward with a similar incident from a year earlier, Flanagen was discredited and later convicted. This, in the ads, constitutes “repeatedly happened in Wareham”. Perry was not involved in the criminal case, and was dropped as a defendent in the civil case, partly because some of the other witnesses had been arrested by him and had stated a desire to get back at him. The voters heard the story, rejected the premise that Perry was responsible for the assault, and he was elected.

    After that first election, Dan, the story really didn’t get repeated. Sometimes Jeff was unopposed, and even when he was none of his opponents ever raised it as an issue. So it is incorrect to say it was reported on repeatedly over the years. Many people were surprised when Malone raised this, even on Cape, as they had never heard of it before.

    I’ve watched Jeff perform exemplary service in the Legislature for ten years, I’ve seen his commitment and constituent sdrvice. Part of the reason I had a hard time getting excited about Malone was his mismanagement in the Treasury, which directly related to his potential government duties. Perry has excellent government skills, and is being blasted for an issue not related to that for which he was investigated and exonerated twenty years ago. The demands for an apology suppose that he was guilty or complicit, even though the invstigation found otherwise.

    Ms. Allen’s statements are being called facts. Even she says, ‘He must have known’, not ‘he heard’ or was ‘right there’. To question even her timing when stepping forward is being called ‘blaming the victim’. She absolutely was a victim and her molester went to jail for it. But she is now 34 years old, and has never spoken of Perry being complicit during the last 4 election cycles. The argument is made that it was too painful for her, but I have trouble with the idea that if Perry’s involvement was so direct, she would allow him to be repeatedly re-elected as a Legislator 15 years after the fact. The lies (‘Perry resigned in disgrace’) and hyperbole (‘just steps away’) in the toxic ads do little to support her claim that she knows what was in his mind and what he saw.

  11. BP Myers

    @Kevin Whalen said: It should be noted that Laura Bush was not under the influence. A rather significant difference in terms of personal responsibility, legality and consequences, political or otherwise.

    Took a peek at your latest blog post and read the following:

    “Unlike so many, I am not willing to convict Jeff Perry for something [he] was not charged with.”

    Ted Kennedy on the other hand . . .

  12. Mike Benedict

    C.E.: Just an observation. While you dismiss the young woman’s ability to “know what was in [Perry’s] mind,” you seem more than willing to comment on what has — or should have — gone on in hers.

  13. BP Myers

    @C.E. Stead says: The demands for an apology suppose that he was guilty or complicit, even though the [investigation] found otherwise.

    The investigation found as follows:

    “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.

    As they say, you’re not entitled to your own facts.

  14. C.E.Stead

    @BP – I’ve never seen this entire report. Do you have a link to it? It’s dated 12 years after the incident, well into Perry’s second term, and the legal investigation which exonerated him had been over for quite some time at that point.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @C.E. I think @BP is referring to this, since the official documents are not online.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @C.E. I see your friend Christy Mihos has a rather different view — he’s calling on Perry to drop out. Not that Perry would do it, but if he did, is there time for the Republican State Committee to name an alternative candidate — as happened with George Kariotes n 1986?

  15. BP Myers

    @Dan said: I think @BP is referring to this:

    I was, and that is bizarre. In what was supposed to be a damning indictment, in a section titled “Just the facts, maam,” it appears the author got the date wrong, substituting 2003 for 1993, when Kelliher’s investigation and subsequent report took place.

    One wonders if he gets the small things wrong, how correct are the large things? At any rate, I shall not quote from that source again.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @BP: So Latimer had a brain cramp. No big deal, though I’m surprised it hasn’t been corrected after all these months. He quotes extensively from public documents, and I think his post is valuable, even if you have to wade through his spin.

  16. Wait — the CC Times ran this story above a huge photo of a cranberry bog?

  17. C.E. Stead

    DK – we both know Walter; he doesn’t believe in corrections. He prefers to let people fight it out in the comments, or do another post. (Hi, Walter!). I warn people to double check when relying on Cape Cod TODAY – not Cape Cod TIMES, the two sometimes get confused. This is not to say IGNORE, as Walter has gotten many great scoops over the course of time, but if you want to rely on what you read, you should confirm elsewhere.

    DISCLOSURE – I’ve written for both.

    Example – Latimer did a post on a candidate, David Vieira, which scorned him for lack of accomplishment as he was in his 40’s, never married, and lived in his parents’ home and had never had real responsibility like a mortgage. He did a SUBSEQUENT post saying that Vieira was actually 12 years younger than he thought, engaged to be married, and it was he who actually was paying the mortgage on his ‘parents’ home and it was in his name. But the original post stands, sans correction or reference to the subsequent post.

    AFAIK, the State Committee can only substitute BEFORE the person has gained the nomination. We did a caucus locally to replace Rauschenbach on the ballot after he had returned the signatures, too late for anyone else to submit them, but then decided not to run. An analogous situation would be Paul Wellstone, where he was elected after he died to trigger a special election. Christy knows this, I’ve told him so, but he’s entitled to make his suggestion.

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