Candidate Blames Newspaper Leak on Opponent

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Massachusetts Democratic gubernatorial nominee Deval Patrick blamed Kerry Healey for newspaper stories on Friday that revealed his brother-in-law had raped his sister in California in 1993 and is now being required to register as a sex offender.

“It’s pathetic and it’s wrong,” Patrick said in a statement he read to reporters his campaign had assembled to talk about stem cell research matters. “By no rules of common decency should their private struggles become a public issue, but this is the politics of Kerry Healey and it disgusts me and it has to stop.”

Patrick took no questions and his staff did not detail why he linked Healey to the revelation, made in stories printed in Friday’s editions of the Boston Herald and The Boston Globe.

Healey, the state’s lieutenant governor and the Republican candidate for governor, said neither she nor her campaign was involved in the revelation, something she said she checked with her staff after learning of the stories.

“I think this is a personal, family matter for Deval Patrick,” Healey said after presiding over a police officer awards ceremony at the Statehouse. “I don’t consider this a campaign issue, and I will not be using it in my campaign.”

The newspapers reported that Bernard Sigh was convicted in 1993 of raping his wife, the former Rhonda Patrick, in San Diego. Sigh pleaded guilty, served a short prison sentence and was put on five years probation.

Sigh, 54, reunited with Patrick’s sister after he served his prison time. The couple moved to Milton in 1997.

The Massachusetts Sex Offender Registry Board sent Sigh a letter this week alerting him he is required to register. The board is part of the Executive Office of Public Safety, a state agency overseen by the Romney administration.

Patrick said the couple’s two children were unaware of the incident until the stories were printed. Patrick’s sister, now 51, was described as an avid churchgoer who, along with her husband, now counsels couples in crisis.

Healey has been hammering Patrick over criminal justice matters since the two emerged as their respective party’s general election contestants. She has labeled her opponent, who headed the Justice Department’s civil rights division under President Clinton, as “soft on crime,”

In particular, she has accused him of favoring criminals over victims, citing his work handling a death penalty appeal for a cop killer and also his advocacy on behalf of a convicted rapist who was seeking parole.

Patrick has criticized the administration for local aid cuts that have forced a reduction in police officers at a time when violent crime has surged. He has also derided Healey as a “theorist” who has a doctorate in criminal justice matters but no practical experience.

On Friday, Healey opened a fresh line of attack, criticizing Worcester Mayor Tim Murray, the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor and Patrick’s running mate, for handling appeals of people challenging their classification by the Sex Offender Registry Board. Murray is a defense attorney, but he said he took some of the cases at the request of the court.

“I know that the court needs people to take these cases, and that it’s part of our adversarial system,” Healey said. “The question is, simply, is that the priority that you want to have your next governor and lieutenant governor to have?”

She said such appeals delay the public from learning the whereabouts of the most dangerous sex offenders.

Arguing that Healey has “launched an assault” on the legal profession, the Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly announced Friday that it was endorsing a candidate for governor for the first time, and would back Patrick.

“What is Healey’s message? That criminal-defense attorneys somehow should be associated with, or blamed for, the actions of their clients? That protecting important constitutional rights is somehow a seedy business?” the newspaper said in an editorial that will be published Monday.

“Healey has resorted to the worst form of pandering, openly inviting voters to think of Patrick as someone who associates with criminals. Her finger-pointing has a flavor of McCarthyism, suggesting that anyone who has spent time in the criminal-defense arena should be identified, called out and avoided,” the newspaper said.

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