Worcester District Attorney John Conte said Saturday that he considered it a “casual” call when the attorney general phoned to tell him that autopsy reports involving a car accident that killed two teenagers didn’t have to be released to the public.
“I didn’t think anything of it. It was just a casual conversation about whether or not the autopsy reports were public,” Conte said in a phone interview.
The remarks were Conte’s first to The Associated Press since news surfaced that Attorney General Tom Reilly, a former district attorney who is running for governor, had called Conte to discuss autopsy reports for the crash that killed two girls whose father has contributed to Reilly’s campaign.
Police were investigating whether alcohol was involved, and whether charges were warranted against anyone who might have supplied the girls with alcohol.
As to whether Reilly’s comments or advice had any influence on him, Conte said: “I’m pretty independent.”
Shauna Murphy, 17, and Meghan Murphy, 15, were killed on Oct. 13 when their sport utility vehicle struck a utility pole in Southborough. A passenger was injured.
The Murphys were the daughters of Christopher and Michelle Murphy of Southborough. Campaign finance records show Christopher Murphy donated $300 to Reilly’s campaign.
Republican Gov. Mitt Romney this past week was highly critical of the Democratic attorney general’s involvement.
A spokesman for Reilly said politics was not at issue, and he was concerned only about releasing the reports to the media, not police.
Conte said he did not stymie the police investigation into the accident. He said he did not get his own copies of the autopsy reports until Dec. 1 _ two months after he said police had completed their investigation.
Conte, the state’s longest-serving district attorney with two decades on the job, said police from Northborough and Southborough called on Nov. 2 to ask if the reports were public, and were told by his office that they are not.
“When they called us on Nov. 2, they’d already completed their investigation. That’s a major, major point,” Conte said.
Police reports released Thursday show that after Reilly’s call, one of Conte’s prosecutors called Northborough detectives, asking whether they were investigating the case. A detective said they were considering whether charges of illegally furnishing alcohol to a minor were warranted.
In newspaper articles published Dec. 21 and Dec. 30, Northborough Police Chief Mark Leahy was twice quoted saying he continued to wait for guidance from Conte’s office. Only after the second article was published did Conte’s office call back, seeking a copy of the investigators’ report, according to Northborough police.
Conte told the AP that that particular charge is a misdemeanor and that his office didn’t need to sign off on whether to pursue charges. Police last week announced that they have closed the case without bringing charges.