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.

Drip, drip, drip, drip

Boston Globe reporter Donovan Slack ferrets out more details about how Cape Cod congressional candidate Jeff Perry handled a child-molesting police officer under his command two decades ago.

The key takeaway involves then-Wareham police officer Scott Flanagan’s strip-search of a 14-year-old girl near a cranberry bog in 1991. Perry, then a sergeant on the force, was on the scene. (Flanagan also strip-searched a 16-year-old girl on a different occasion. Perry was not present, but accompanied Flanagan on a controversial visit to the girl’s parents’ home later that night.)

Last month, Donovan notes, Perry said he saw nothing with respect to the 14-year-old: “It did not occur in my presence.” Yet that contradicts what Perry said at the time, according to Donovan, who writes:

But in sworn testimony in a deposition for civil suits filed by the two girls’ families, Perry said he was in a position to have seen and heard everything and that it did not happen, according to a law enforcement specialist, Lou Reiter, who reviewed Perry’s deposition, wrote a report, and testified for one of the plaintiffs.

Flanagan later confessed that he had strip-searched both girls, pleading guilty to criminal charges. The contradictory statements — Perry saying nothing happened, and Flanagan later admitting it did — led Reiter to conclude that Perry was “not being truthful.’’

Perry, a Republican state representative from Sandwich, is hoping to succeed Democratic congressman Bill Delahunt, who’s retiring. But who’s that knocking at the door? Why, it’s former state treasurer Joe Malone, who’s running against Perry in the Republican primary.

Earlier coverage.

Drip, drip, drip

George Brennan of the Cape Cod Times reports that Cape Cod congressional candidate Jeff Perry’s version of what he did as a Wareham police sergeant following the strip-search of a 16-year-old girl on New Year’s Eve 1992 does not match up with what he claimed he did when questioned about it last month.

And now a retired Wareham police captain is speaking out. “It was a big secret. We knew nothing about it,” Paul Cardalino tells Brennan.

Perry, a Republican state representative from Sandwich, hopes to succeed retiring congressman Bill Delahunt, a Democrat. At issue is Perry’s supervision of Scott Flanagan, a police officer who went to prison for illegally strip-searching a 16-year-old and a 14-year-old in two separate incidents.

I first took note of the story last month, when Donovan Slack and Frank Phillips of the Boston Globe and Brennan filed their initial reports. Perry was not found liable in either of the civil suits filed in connection with the strip-searches, and he has denied his subsequent departure from the police force was related to his supervision of Perry. And there the matter seemed to rest.

Yet it looks like information is continuing to drip out. So kudos to the Globe, the Times and Cape Cod Today, a website that has been hammering away at Perry for weeks.

Why were teenage sexual-assault victims named?

Not long after I wrote about the Boston Globe and Cape Cod Times stories regarding congressional candidate Jeff Perry’s ties to former Wareham police officer Scott Flanagan, who illegally conducted strip searches of two teenage girls in 1992, Julie Manganis posted a comment in which she asked an important question: Why did the Times name the two victims, who were 16 and 14 at the time they were assaulted?

“Does the Times now have a policy of identifying victims of sexual crimes, even when the girls are minors?” asked Manganis.

I put the question to the reporter, George Brennan, who in turn referred it to his editor, Paul Pronovost. Here is Pronovost’s answer:

While the Cape Cod Times typically does not name the victims of crimes, we make exceptions when the news warrants. Here’s a link to a recent ombudsman column on the subject, though not related to the Perry story.

You should be aware the girls’ names have been in the public domain for years; you will find published accounts in the Enterprise papers and the Standard Times in New Bedford long before Saturday’s CCT story.

Of course, we don’t justify our decision on the basis of what others do. For the CCT, the compelling factor was the rights of the accused to face his/her accuser. We concluded that publishing the full facts — including the names of those who made the allegations regarding the Wareham police — outweighed privacy issues in detailing the civil action. We gave a full airing of the case and its chronology, including speaking with the father of one of the girls. I believe the story stands as a fair record of what happened and our readers can decide what it means to them in the context of the congressional race.

I did some checking, and found that the Standard Times did indeed name both victims on at least one occasion — on Nov. 29, 1995, when the older of the victims won a civil suit against the Wareham Police Department. The Enterprise newspapers, based on the Cape, recently named the 16-year-old. It’s clear from the context that those papers named one or both victims in 2002 as well.

This strikes me as remarkable. It is highly unusual for news organizations to identify sexual-assault victims, let alone victims who were also minors. Pronovost is right that the names have been out there for many years. I’d be interested in knowing how that happened.

Finally, you may be interested in this long take on the case by Falmouth lawyer Richard Latimer, who blogs for Cape Cod Today. Latimer, as you will see, is no fan of Perry, a Republican state representative who hopes to succeed retiring congressman Bill Delahunt. But Latimer seems to have read every document, and he quotes from them at length.

Perry was a Wareham police sergeant in 1992, when Flanagan assaulted the two girls. Perry has never been charged or found civilly liable in connection with the cases, and has denied that his resignation from the department stemmed from his failure to bring Flanagan to heel.

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.