Bay State Showdown: 2006

05 October 2006

Patrick Campaign Begins Meltdown Process


Patrick's Fringe Views Come Back To Haunt Him

Just days after polls showed him up to 25 points ahead of GOP Lt Gov Kerry Healey, Democrat Deval Patrick's campaign is in deep trouble this morning.

After revelations that Patrick sought the release of a demented and violent convicted rapist he hadn't even met previously and lied about it later, Massachusetts voters were jolted into a serious reality check regarding a candidate about whom they still know relatively little.

Patrick had claimed just days ago that his only assistance to the convict was in the form of letters on his behalf, but the Globe reports today that he sent rapist Benjamin LaGuer money, as well. His admission came only after the paper confronted him with the allegation.

In addition, columnist Virginia Buckingham notes today that Patrick fought for a sick Florida cop killer, as well.

Healey's campaign has already produced a new ad which capitalizes on Patrick's huge missteps:

Now, with his extremist views coming to light for the first time in a large- scale media setting, Patrick could very well see his gubernatorial effort rapidly unwind.

Boston's newspapers, as if on cue, quickly rushed to Patrick's defense, at least in part. In fact, the formerly conservative, increasingly liberal Boston Herald even went on the attack against Healey, claiming the current administration had helped a cop killer obtain a job. But the Herald's front-page attack isn't going to help, as Patrick's actions will simply prove too extreme for the average voter and the weak anti-Healey hit is dubious, at best.

On talk radio, Howie Carr had a field day tearing apart Patrick while interviewing family members of the rape victim, who continue to be outraged by the Democrat's fringe behavior. Moving the Mark Foley congressional case to the back-burner, Patrick's meltdown dominated discussions.

Here's the Herald's coverage, by reporter Casey Ross, on the emerging Patrick scandal:

Democratic gubernatorial nominee Deval Patrick today defended letters he wrote urging the release of convicted rapist Ben LaGuer, while GOP contender Kerry Healey said the letters show Patrick cares more about criminals than their victims.

The two campaigns emerged from their second debate last night throwing haymakers, as Patrick’s prior support of LaGuer dominated the chatter at morning press events.

Patrick wrote two letters to the state’s parole board urging LaGuer’s release because he had been impressed by letters he received from the convicted rapist. While acknowledging he had never met LaGuer, Patrick said today he wrote the letters out of concern for “racism in the jury room.”

Healey, addressing questions at a separate event, charged that Patrick’s advocacy of LaGuer reveals skewed priorities in dealing with the criminal justice system. She said the letters show Patrick cares more about defending criminals than protecting victims of horrific crimes.

LaGuer was convicted of tying up and brutally raping a 59-year-old neighbor in Leominster in 1983. The conviction was affirmed by a 2002 DNA test that supported the prosecution’s case against LaGuer, who is now serving a life sentence.

The Herald published a story about Patrick’s previous support for LaGuer in August. At the time, a campaign spokesman downplayed Patrick’s participation in the case, telling the newspaper that Patrick has not followed the case closely in recent years.

Patrick sought to put even more distance between himself and LaGuer today, saying his letters did not assert LaGuer’s innocence, but expressed an opinion that he appeared prepared to return to society. Patrick said pressing a case for his innocence would have been a mistake.

While the Boston Globe slanted its headline to make Healey appear to be the bad guy, the story is still clear that Patrick lied about his involvement in this case:

Patrick defends letters, calls Healey criticism 'cheap political shot'

By Andrea Estes, Globe Staff

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Deval Patrick today defended his advocacy on behalf of a convicted rapist and slammed Republican Kerry Healey for taking a "cheap political shot."

Patrick, who twice asked the state's parole board to free Benjamin LaGuer, serving a life sentence for binding and raping a 59 year old neighbor in 1983, said he would make the same appeal again because "there were serious issues raised about the fairness of his trial."

Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey's campaign moved this morning to capitalize on Patrick's relationship with LaGuer, issuing a release that asked why "Deval Patrick lied to the press and the voters about his involvement trying to free a brutal rapist?"

Patrick stood his ground and shot back.

"I haven't lived my life or run my career trying to make sure that there isn't something somebody in some campaign will feature to take a cheap political shot," Patrick said. "As much as I respect the lieutenant governor, that is a cheap political shot."

Patrick said reports that racism may have played a role in LaGuer's conviction convinced him to advocate on LaGuer's behalf. But when pressed today, Patrick conceded he did not investigate to determine whether LaGuer, who is imprisoned at the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center in Shirley, was actually guilty.

Many politicians, academics and lawyers have supported LaGuer over the years, but that support diminished after DNA tests conducted in 2002 linked him to the crime.

Patrick said based on a recent review of the case, he believes "justice has been served" and vowed that if elected he would not issue a pardon.

This morning's release from the Healey campaign carried the headline: "Dear Ben ... Best regards, Deval."

The release quotes a Sept. 28 statement from Patrick in which he said he had not been involved in LaGuer's case in "more than 10 years." The Globe reported today that Patrick wrote two letters on LaGuer's behalf, sending the second in April 2000.

Meanwhile, back at the Herald, Virginia Buckingham helped to provide her paper with a reality check:

No defense for Patrick coddling criminals
By Virginia Buckingham
Thursday, October 5, 2006

It’s a mindset thing. When I got a couple of letters from convicted rapist Ben LaGuer at the Herald, I filed them - in the circular file. I’m sure I’m not the only one.

When Deval Patrick was the targeted recipient of the serial prison correspondent, the would-be governor tried to get the guy released by writing to the Parole Board. He even sent a couple of letters to LaGuer in prison, in one apologizing for not being timely enough in his response. “I am sorry not to have written sooner,” Patrick wrote in 1998. “Given the significance of events in your life, I am embarrassed that I did not make the time.”

He ought to be embarrassed to have jumped to the defense of a man convicted of brutally raping his bound and gagged victim over a span of eight hours without ever having investigated the facts of the case from a source other than LaGuer himself. Only now, six years after he last tried to get LaGuer sprung, has Patrick agreed to meet with the first cop on the scene, now mayor of Leominster, Dean Mazzarella. His tardiness must be attributed to the “overwhelming press of other business” like that which delayed Patrick’s response to LaGuer.

No wonder Patrick lied about the frequency and timing of the contacts when first asked about them by the media!

Patrick now says that he stopped helping LaGuer after 2002 DNA testing tied the rapist to the crime scene. He’ll have to come up with another excuse to explain riding to the rescue of admitted cop killer Carl Ray Songer.

These are the facts: Florida Highway Patrolman Ronald Smith was shot to death by escaped convict Songer in 1973. Smith, a father of a 2-year-old girl, approached what he thought was a motorist in trouble in a broken-down car. Smith was hit by at least five shots.

Two hunters witnessed the murder and caught Songer and an accomplice as they tried to flee. Songer, who is white, received the death penalty and was scheduled for execution in 1985 when Patrick, then a lawyer for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, won Songer a reprieve and a reduction in sentence on appeal.

Patrick successfully argued that Songer hadn’t been sentenced fairly because he wasn’t able to present evidence of his good character during the sentencing hearing. Now, under Florida law, Songer is eligible for parole and the murdered patrolman’s family, including his now grown daughter, have to argue before Florida’s parole board to keep him in prison.

With talk radio, columnists and the blogosphere now armed with enough anti-Patrick fodder to last several years, it's hard to imagine how the Democrat will regain his momentum. Voters have got to be alarmed by the severity of these developments.

ELSEWHERE: Scott Allen Miller has much more here.

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  • I can see the ad campaign now--"Deval Patrick for Governor:
    I'm Not Shy About Being A Shyster!"

    By Blogger D. R. Tucker, at 6:33 AM  

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