Joan Vennochi

Perry’s unacceptable behavior

(Debee Tlumacki for The Boston Globe)
By Joan Vennochi
Globe Columnist / October 21, 2010

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JEFF PERRY’S bad judgment as a cop and dishonesty about it afterwards should make him unfit to be a congressman.

A dramatic statement from the woman who was illegally strip-searched in 1991 by a Wareham police officer under the command of then-police sergeant Jeffrey D. Perry makes his transgression exquisitely clear. Lisa Allen, who was 14 at the time, said that Perry was nearby during the assault, failed to stop it, and tried to cover it up after the fact.

“He had to hear my screaming and crying. Instead of helping me, Jeff Perry denied anything happened,’’ said Allen, in a statement released to the Globe through her lawyer.

Allen is breaking her long silence as Perry, now a state representative from Sandwich, runs as the Republican nominee in the 10th Congressional District. Before she came forward, Perry’s supporters excused reports of what happened as the youthful indiscretions of a police officer who matured over time. Perry declined to explain the discrepancies in his various accounts of what happened and bitterly blamed his Democratic opponent, William R. Keating, for playing dirty politics by raising it.

But it’s more than fair to raise it as an issue in this campaign. And, it is also fair to ask: How can Senator Scott Brown, the father of two daughters, endorse Perry and praise his judgment in an ad that has been running on the candidate’s behalf, when that judgment is so obviously flawed? Perry has also been endorsed by former Governor Mitt Romney, another family-values Republican.

Sticking with Perry requires a warped definition of family and values.

Scott Flanagan, the officer who conducted the strip-search and a similar assault on a different girl in 1992, admitted to the crimes and was convicted in 1993 of civil rights violations and indecent assault of a child. Before Flanagan’s admission of guilt, Perry testified that he was in a position to see and hear what happened during the 1991 incident. The assault never occurred, he said. He also delayed reporting this incident and a second one that he did not witness. Perry has also admitted to misstating the facts of the second strip-search on his bar application.

When I wrote about this during the Republican primary, some readers asked, what about Ted Kennedy and Chappaquiddick?

What Kennedy did was wrong. Mary Jo Kopechne died as a result and Kennedy tried to cover it up. Massachusetts voters stood by him anyway.

Tenth congressional district voters may do the same with Perry. If they do, this time there will be no Camelot or family dynasty to blind them to the truth of whom they are electing as their representative. They will do it with full knowledge of Perry’s rogue actions and dishonesty.

Massachusetts voters forgave Kennedy because they believed his stand on the issues and stature in Washington mattered more than his moral lapses. The issues and anger of the moment may also propel Perry to Washington, no matter how damning Allen’s statement.

After all, it was a long time ago when a 14-year-old girl and three boys were hanging out near a Wareham cranberry bog. Perry, the patrol supervisor, Flanagan, and a third officer arrived on the scene. One of the boys had marijuana and was arrested. Flanagan asked Allen if she had any drugs, then ordered her to lift her top and bra and unbutton her pants, according to a transcript of Flanagan’s guilty plea.

“Without any warning or notice to the victim, the defendant then put his hand down the front of her jeans inside her underwear feeling that area of her body,’’ prosecutors said when they outlined the charges to which Flanagan pleaded guilty.

Contrast that to Perry’s initial insistence that nothing happened.

Keating took heat on primary night for saying that if Perry didn’t see that assault, what would he miss in Washington. It’s a good question.

But voters, too, have a way of seeing only what they want to see. In this case, voting for Perry means turning a blind eye to truth, justice, and morality.

Joan Vennochi can be reached at

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