Victim’s Accusation Drags Candidate’s Past Back into Mass. Race

Posted October 20, 2010 at 9:28pm

The Congressional campaign of Jeff Perry (R) suffered a heavy blow this week, when the victim of an illegal strip search nearly 20 years ago revealed her identity Tuesday and accused the former police sergeant of failing to protect her.

The allegation is the latest to surface in the increasingly ugly race in Massachusetts’ 10th district, with the camps trading barbs over Perry’s time as a sergeant and Democrat Bill Keating’s work as a district attorney. A recent survey by the Boston Globe shows Keating leading Perry, 46 to 43 percent. Perry is currently a state Representative.

Lisa Allen, who was illegally strip-searched by Perry’s subordinate in 1991 at the age of 14, released a statement Tuesday to the Boston Globe suggesting that Perry could hear her screaming during the ordeal. She gave the Globe permission to identify her by her maiden name in its report, which was published Wednesday.

Officer Scott Flanagan was convicted in Allen’s case and the case of a strip search in 1992 of another female teen. Perry resigned from the Wareham police 17 days after Flanagan’s indictment, but he has said his departure was unrelated to the cases. He was not charged in either incident.

He previously acknowledged in sworn testimony that he was in the position to witness the search of Allen, but he contradicted that testimony earlier this year when he told the Globe that it “did not occur in my presence.”

In a statement provided to the Globe, Perry said: “What happened to Lisa Allen was wrong and should never happen to anyone. Scott Flanagan’s actions were despicable and a betrayal of the oath he took as a police officer. My heart goes out to Ms. Allen for what she was put through by Scott Flanagan that night.”

Keating, the Norfolk County district attorney, also expressed sympathy in a statement provided to Roll Call. “No one should have to experience the trauma that Ms. Allen experienced, particularly at the hands of those entrusted to protect her,” he said. “As District Attorney, I have a profound respect for the incredible courage it has taken her to step forward and speak out about this offense. She is an inspiration to every survivor and to all of us who believe in justice for victims.”

Some Republicans have suggested that Allen’s statement appears to be a political tactic on the part of Democrats. The National Republican Congressional Committee went after Keating’s record Wednesday by distributing an investigative report by the Patriot Ledger newspaper in 2005, during Keating’s tenure as district attorney.

In a comparison of rape sentences in Norfolk and neighboring Plymouth County, it found that defendants who pleaded guilty after being charged with forcible rape or attempted rape received an average minimum sentence of 1.7 years in Norfolk, while those in Plymouth got 4.6 years.

“With a record of repeatedly letting rapists off the hook and delivering soft sentences to some of society’s most appalling criminals, Keating is left without a leg to stand on in this campaign,” NRCC spokeswoman Joanna Burgos said in a statement.

Keating spokesman Steve Crawford called the NRCC’s news release “nothing but a desperate and shameless ploy by Jeff Perry’s Washington friends.”

Crawford also said in his statement, “When you are a DA you understand that you are there to protect the public and protect survivors and you do that by seeking and getting the strongest conviction possible. Bill Keating’s record of protecting survivors and putting away predators stands on its own.”

Outside groups such as the Service Employees International Union have weighed in on the dueling allegations in the competitive race to replace retiring Rep. Bill Delahunt (D). Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) released a radio ad on Perry’s behalf Wednesday that criticized Keating for deploying “the same ugly tactics that were used against me in my campaign for the United States Senate.”