Joan Vennochi

Victims need more from Brown

By Joan Vennochi
Globe Columnist / April 10, 2011

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FRESH ABUSE allegations, a press-savvy lawyer, a suicide, and a high-stakes election.

The news is sad and bad for Camp Good News and its famous ex-camper, Senator Scott Brown.

When a longtime employee committed suicide last week, the story of alleged sexual abuse at the Cape Cod summer camp exploded into something more complicated than a sympathy-inducing chapter in a politician’s book. The death of Charles “Chuck’’ Devita raises questions for camp owners and law enforcement officials. It also revives moral and political questions for Brown.

Brown’s disclosure that he was molested there by a camp counselor four decades ago helped sell his autobiography, “Against All Odds.’’ Without it, the book was a story of classic hard knocks with a self-inoculating twist. He offers up his version of his free-spirited modeling days, before Democrats could dredge them up for 2012.

But including the story of alleged sexual abuse made the book “60 Minutes’’ material.

From the start, Brown insisted he would not identify his alleged molester and said he is not interested in seeing him prosecuted. Asked why a lawyer and US senator is not worried about stopping an alleged pedophile who could still be on the loose, he said he has moved on. He has — from scared and abused 10-year-old to powerful lawmaker and soul-baring author. So now, from a perch of security and celebrity, he is leaving it up to other scared and abused victims to do what’s necessary to unravel the truth about the camp.

It’s no definition of leadership. But it’s Brown’s right, and so far, he suffers no political downside from his decision. Polls show he is extremely popular in Massachusetts, and holds a crushing lead over most hypothetical rivals. The effort by national Democrats to paint him as “extreme’’ shows no signs of working. Every day they and the Tea Party denounce him is a good day for him in Massachusetts.

As far as the personal revelations in his book are concerned, the public reacted mostly with compassion.

Then, last week, the Globe reported that Cape Cod prosecutors are examining concerns raised about the camp, based partly on a complaint filed by a former camper who said he was molested there when he was 10. The ex-camper hired lawyer Mitchell Garabedian, who also represented victims of the clergy sexual abuse scandal that rocked the Boston archdiocese, and who knows how to generate headlines.

The next day, Devita, 43, was found shot to death in a red pickup truck at the camp. Devita’s mother said she suspected her son may have been molesting children when he was in his early 20s, and that she brought her concerns to the camp’s director. According to the mother — who once worked in a sexual abuse unit in New York City’s social services department — the camp dismissed her concerns. A camp spokesman denied that she raised such concerns. The mother also said she did not tell police.

There are now six separate abuse allegations involving the camp, not including Brown’s, which never specifically named Camp Good News. Over the decades, were children and parents waved off? Did any go to police? Were any referred to the district attorney’s office? What did District Attorney Michael O’Keefe know and when did he act on it? Did investigators start looking into the camp when Brown’s book produced international headlines? Or, did they simply wait for others to make allegations?

Brown empowered others to come forward; it’s possible past victims who lack his celebrity were ignored for decades. Now, because of him, people are paying attention. But, so far, he wants nothing more to do with a story that sells books and advances his political ambition.

Even WRKO radio host Howie Carr, a Brown supporter, asked whether it’s time to say more and cooperate with law enforcement. In reply, Brown said “no one has asked me to do anything.’’

Why not?

Consider yourself asked, Senator Brown.

Joan Vennochi can be reached at