Stanford prof: Patrick abused his office to protect sex-offender brother-in-law

Could this be why Deval Patrick decided to decamp for Bain in the first place? Not long before leaving office, then-Governor Patrick fired two officials at the State Sex Offender Registry Board, in part because they had attempted to force his brother-in-law Bernard Sigh to register as a sex offender. Sigh had pled guilty in 1993 for marital rape and served a short prison sentence, and Patrick’s political opponents dug it up in 2006 in an unsuccessful effort to derail his gubernatorial bid.

In 2014, Patrick got his revenge:

On Monday, Patrick, still seething over the story eight years later, explained his recent decision to remove the top two officials at the state Sex Offender Registry Board, saying they improperly tried to force his brother-in-law to register as a sex offender.

In his first public comments on the shakeup at the agency, Patrick blamed the officials, his own appointees, for a number of other problems, including failing to update regulations and fostering an unproductive work environment. But he made it clear, as he prepares to leave office, that he is still nursing wounds from his first political campaign.

Blaming the Herald and the Republican Party for the revelation, Patrick said the disclosure that his brother-in-law had been convicted of raping his wife, Patrick’s sister, more than a decade earlier in California “nearly destroyed their lives.”

“So it was time for them to go,” Patrick said Monday, referring to the removal of board chairwoman Saundra Edwards and executive director Jeanne Holmes.

What had happened, the Globe story explained, is that after the election the board continued to consider what to do with Sigh. In 2007 hearing officer Attilio Paglia recommended no action, but the board pressured him to sign a statement requiring Sigh to register. Paglia then claimed retaliation took place when he refused, and eventually got $60,000 in a settlement five months before Patrick fired the two board members over the incident.

At this point, it sounds as though Patrick had good cause to fire the two over their own political retaliation, but … that’s not the end of the story, however. As #MeToo activist and Stanford professor Michele Dauber made clear on Twitter this morning, it turned out that Sigh actually was a dangerous sex offender who committed rape against the same victim three years later after stalking her previously (via Twitchy):

A Norfolk Superior Court judge sentenced a Milton man on Monday to six to eight years in prison for kidnapping and raping his ex-wife, former Gov. Deval Patrick’s sister — even though prosecutors asked for 17 to 22 years and the victim said she is “terrified” at the prospect of his release.

“The kids may want the court to be lenient,” the ex-wife said, referring to their children, her voice breaking as her former husband, Bernard Sigh, stood roughly 20 feet away, showing no emotion. “My asking for a long sentence may be hard for them to understand. But they don’t know Bernie the way I do … I am terrified at the thought of him being released … I would have to leave everything … I would always be looking over my shoulder.”

Assistant District Attorney Elizabeth McLaughlin had asked Judge Robert C. Cosgrove to sentence Sigh, 67, to 12 to 15 years in prison for kidnapping and raping the victim, who was his wife at the time, to run concurrently with two years for stalking her, followed by five to seven years for witness intimidation and 15 years of probation for other charges, including assault and battery on a person over 60.

Dauber, who knows Patrick personally, calls his intervention “reprehensible” and argues it should be “disqualifying”:

Hindsight’s 20/20, of course, but it still looks pretty smelly, especially since Patrick all but admitted the personal reasons for firing the board members in September 2014. Why the board didn’t take up Sigh’s case before Patrick’s election is unclear, but as Dauber says, rape is rape even within a marriage — and maybe especially more dangerous in that sense. It certainly proved to be the case with Sigh after his wife tried to separate herself from him. Paglia may have been unfairly targeted for retaliation, but in the end he was wrong and the board was right about Sigh.

This also comes at an awkward time for Democrats who are currently arguing that Trump deserves to be removed for using his official authority for personal gain. How is what Patrick did in firing these officials any different? Patrick made it clear that he didn’t want law enforcement messing around with his family, even though he knew his brother-in-law was guilty of marital rape. He used the power of his office to ensure that it didn’t happen, at least in part to his personal/familial benefit. Imagine the way this story would have been treated had the family name involved had been “Trump” instead of “Patrick.” There would certainly be more voices than Dauber’s calling it “disqualifying.”

Patrick had to know this would come out at some point. It raises the question as to why he decided to enter the arena with this hanging over his head, especially at this Impeachapalooza moment over abuse of power and influence.