What drove James DiPaola to suicide?

The trouble that Middlesex County Sheriff James DiPaola was in before he committed suicide seemed — well, if not trivial, then certainly manageable.

He considered, then walked away from, a sleazy but perfectly legal scheme that would have allowed him to collect his $98,500 pension and his $123,000 salary simultaneously. And he may have been playing it fast and loose with campaign funds.

There is a possibility that much worse was about to come out, and he couldn’t bear the thought of disgrace and prison. But it could well be that depression was responsible both for his misdeeds and for his suicide. Killing himself was such an extreme reaction that it doesn’t seem likely the thought had never occurred to him before last week.

Advertisements

19 thoughts on “What drove James DiPaola to suicide?

  1. I agree his suicide seems like quite an extreme reaction to the news that broke last week. It makes me think there were other things going on in his life that made him do what he did. It will be interesting to see what he wrote in that note. Hopefully it will shed some light on his decision.

  2. Michael Pahre

    Reporters Andrea Estes and Sean Murphy did some terrific investigating and reporting in this story, which has now come to a tragic end.

    That said, it looks to me that Murphy overstepped the reporter’s role a bit in the process. In DiPaola’s “letter to the residents of Middlesex,” published in the Globe accompanying last week’s story (11/21), DiPaola wrote:

    “Sean made a statement to me which really hit home. He said, ‘You know Sheriff if you do this it will be your legacy and not any good you have done.’ I realized then that he was right.”

    Assuming DiPaola was accurate in how he represented that interaction with the reporter, then doesn’t it sound like the reporter went beyond standard reporting practices?

    1. Dan Kennedy

      “Assuming DiPaola was accurate in how he represented that interaction with the reporter, then doesn’t it sound like the reporter went beyond standard reporting practices?

      @Michael: No, not really. We’re not generally accustomed to seeing the journalistic sausage getting made, that’s all.

  3. BP Myers

    @Dan Kennedy says: We’re not generally accustomed to seeing the journalistic sausage getting made, that’s all.

    First thing I thought of when reading the story was your “journalistic sausage” dismissal a week or so ago of Murphy’s crusading questions.

    But you’re right, there is certainly more going on here than meets the eye. I also think to the non-cynical eye, the Globe story made him seem more everyman hero (though belatedly) than craven pol. Can’t imagine that was the impetus.

    At any rate, hope his family finds peace.

  4. Mike Rice

    Unrelenting paranoia which eventually lead to depression is my guess. Paranoia is characterized by delusions of persecution or of grandeur.

  5. Dan

    On my blog I ask a question that has been overlooked. Why did Tim Cahill’s State Retirement Board not announce that he filed for retirement BEFORE Election Day??

    http://tinyurl.com/34jzew9

    That application had to been noticed by top brass right from the start. Yet nobody knew a thing until last week.

    Cahill needs to explain. Certainly if what an employee of the Commonwealth makes is public then I would have to think their retirement is as well.

  6. C.E. Stead

    I noticed that he killed himslef on the anniversary of the date he was sworn in.

    And I hope reporters on a crusade try to remember – these are real people, not bloated caricatures, that they are talking to.

    1. Dan Kennedy

      @C.E.: As several others have already noted, Sean Murphy, if anything, made DiPaola look better than he deserved on that retirement scheme. I hope reporters will keep asking tough questions. We can’t proceed on the assumption that holding a public official accountable will lead to his pumping a bullet in his head.

  7. Aaron Read

    Cui bono? Who benefits? Does DiPaola’s death mean that other, more sleazy schemes of his own…or more sleazy people with their own schemes…will not come to light, then I imagine you’ll have your reason right there.

    And don’t rule out that DiPaola is doing something to protect someone else important to him. It could be something as noble as “his family”, in that he doesn’t want to drag them through a public scandal. Or something less noble like “his mistress” that he never wants anyone to know about publicly. Or his “his family” because someone more sleazy and dangerous than him threatened them unless he “did something”. Who knows? I’m intentionally being somewhat lurid because the odds are very good that there’s more to this story than really meets the eye, but the odds are also very good that his suicide will prevent any further examination and/or revelations.

  8. Bill Duncliffe

    The parts of the story regarding campaign finance and pension politics are legitimate and news worthy.

    The speculation and armchair psychiatry are, at best, tawdry.

  9. @Jim Kane wrote: Cahill needs to explain. Certainly if what an employee of the Commonwealth makes is public then I would have to think their retirement is as well.

    Well, no, aren’t there privacy issues here? Most of the time, we find out these things when reporters probe an issue or officials leak in an issue. But officials aren’t obligated to leak anything. Was Cahill, who seems to know fading into the sunset, supposed to dime him out to Howie Carr? Maybe no one in Cahill’s office gave it a second look because it isn’t really anyone’s business – although it would have made for a juicy political story right before the election.

  10. Jim Kane

    @Tony

    Since every state employee’s pay is public record (Howie has had a field day with that online database) I don’t think privacy issues apply to retirement.

    Certainly the voters should have been tipped off before November 2nd.

    His world started to fall apart when both FOX and the Globe came calling.

  11. L.K. Collins

    Mr. Schinella, expenditures of public funds will always be a matter of the public interest.

    Someone taking his own life is a tragedy. But it being a public figure does not entitle the fourth estate to pile on without specific facts.

    The “doing out job” excuse put forth by Dan and his colleagues is objectionable when they forget that what they do has consequence neglect to point out their roles in what has happened.

    Mr. Read’s armchair psychology seems to be unnecessary, unsupported, possibly defamatory speculation. He is right on one thing, however: “…the odds are also very good that his suicide will prevent any further examination and/or revelations….”

    That too is a tragedy.

  12. ben starr

    If Sean Murphy had written his take on DiPaolo’s act into the story that would have been poor journalism. It only made it into the story because DiPaolo related his back and forth with Murphy. Murphy simply used that comment to get a response which worked. Agreed with DK, the Globe actually put the initial pension story in the best possible light.

    If Sean Murphy got a commission on how much he’s saved residents of MA with all his pension abuse reporting, he could retire.

  13. nobody has picked up that someone who worked for / w/ DiPaola
    was staying at the same hotel at the same time.It was just one line in Sunday’s Globe article. That fact if true seems so coincidental. But sometimes coincidences are just that I guess. But if true, maybe DiPaola’s friends were worried abt him.. Did DiPaola ALWAYS use a state car????

  14. Pingback: Tweets that mention Media Nation » What drove James DiPaola to suicide? -- Topsy.com

  15. Aaron Read

    The speculation and armchair psychiatry are, at best, tawdry.

    Indeed. However, the secret lives of Boston pols almost always are equally tawdry as well.

    I wouldn’t make such lurid speculation if there wasn’t ample past examples. Granted, just like with the stock market, past performance has no correlation with future results. And since I’m not a journalist, I can speculate all I like. Whereas if I were a journalist, and I printed/broadcasted what I said, it would be in poor taste at best, and possibly defamatory.

    However, if I were a journalist, I also would look at this situation’s history, look at other situations’ histories…and I’d come the exact same conclusion I posted above: and I’d start digging a lot more until I found out what the hell was really going on.

    1. Dan Kennedy

      @Aaron: I believe this is the second time you’ve suggested you don’t have to worry about defamation because you’re not a journalist. Not sure where you got that idea. What you can take to the bank is that you don’t have to worry about defamation because Sheriff DiPaola’s dead. You can’t libel someone who is no longer living.

  16. Aaron Read

    True enough, Dan. I was making a roundabout comment on how a journalist should hold themselves to a higher standard when it comes to speculation than Joe Public should. Sort of like how I can stand in my living room with friends and shout “Jane Doe is a rampaging a$$hole!” but it’s rather different to shout the same thing when you’re standing on stage in front of hundreds of people.

    And I find it a tad ironic that you can’t libel someone who is dead, since there is a strong inclination for everyone to canonize the dead lest they “speak ill of them”.

Comments are closed.