Senate Debate Part 2

By Jim Braude and Margery Eagan, moderating a debate between Martha Coakley, Scott Brown, and Joseph Kennedy
Boston Talks 96.9 FM
January 5, 2010

[This excerpt was transcribed from the "Senate Debate Part 2" podcast available at the above link. The excerpt begins at 22:52 on 96.9 FM's streaming audio of the debate on that page. See also In Debate, Senate Candidates Seek to Define Differences, by Andrea Estes, Boston Globe, January 6, 2010.]

Margery Eagan: Last week BishopAccountability, a sex abuse watchdog group, released the names of about 70 Irish priests credibly accused of child abuse in the United States. [Note that the webpage identifies "Irish Priests Who Have Worked in the United States and Are Accused of Sexual Misconduct"; no statement is made regarding the credibility of the allegations, and some of the allegations involve sexual misconduct with adults.] The group demanded – again – that Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston immediately release the names of such priests here, so the public can know where these potentially very dangerous priests and child sex offenders live. At least 20 other bishops and some district attorneys have already released names of such priests. As attorney general, why haven't you asked for that, and demanded that release from Cardinal O'Malley?

Martha Coakley: Well, first of all, those cases get handled by the district attorneys, as I did as district attorney and dealt with many of those cases. I know that that process is under way here, I think he should release them. And if he doesn't do it, and if it's not done appropriately, and the DAs aren't effective or successful in doing it, I'll be happy to ask him to release them.

Eagan: So you're down with that. But you were not particularly outspoken as Middlesex district attorney or as attorney general during the sex abuse crisis …

Coakley: Oh, absolutely, Margery, you're wrong on that. We prosecuted Father Shanley; we prosecuted Father Geoghan. We're the ones as a group who went to Tom Riley, and said, "You have the jurisdiction to look at the cardinal and look at what's happening in Boston and in the archdiocese, because we had limited jurisdiction within our own districts." We were incredibly active and spent enormous amounts of time in looking at the individual cases that came in to us: were they within the statute of limitations, could we bring cases? That's how we went after Father Shanley and got that conviction and put him in jail.

Eagan: Did you ever publicly ask for Cardinal Law to resign?

Coakley: I did not.

Eagan: Okay, thank you.

Jim Braude: Scott Brown, following up on this bully pulpit issue, I want to stay on this for a second, if we can …

Scott Brown: I do too.

Braude: Even if you have no formal power as a senator, would you use the bully pulpit of the United States Senate to ask that O'Malley, Cardinal O'Malley release these names?

Brown: Yeah, of course, if they're sex offenders, they should be listed on the sex offender registry, number one. And it's interesting that Martha talks about that, I think we need to look very seriously about some of the cases she's worked on, in particular, we recently tried to strengthen Jessica's Law, and we tried to get mandatory sentencing, mandatory time, for people that are raping and hurting our children, and Martha's office …

Eagan: Just for people who don’t know, what is Jessica's Law?

Brown: It deals with sex offenders, and how we try them, and how we sentence them. And Martha Coakley's office came down hard, opposing mandatory sentencing for sex offenders, and what it did, it took away a tool in the toolbox for the district attorneys so they could have that mandatory sentencing, and I think it's wrong. I have fought for many many years strengthening the sex offender laws. A lot of the laws that she's talking about, I've actually written, I've actually voted on and written, so I've given her the tools so she can do her job, so I’m glad that she's doing it.

Eagan: Martha?

Coakley: Scott voted for the Jessica's Law bill that we essentially worked with the district attorneys to craft on sentencing. It wasn't additional tools primarily for prosecution, which Scott doesn't really understand, 'cause he's never worked as a prosecutor, on the difficulties of investigating, prosecuting, bringing those cases to trial, holding them up on appeal, and how you really keep communities safe. That's what I did for a long time as chief of the child abuse unit, and worked on that bill, and I sat with Scott at an Emily Rooney program, and he said, well, we'll never pass a Jessica’s Law, and if we do, I'll shave my head. And I'm still waiting to see for the haircut, because it hasn't happened. We passed a bill that made sense and kept the most dangerous people in prison.

Braude: How about the bully pulpit issue with Joe Kennedy?

Joseph Kennedy: Absolutely, you have to use the bully pulpit, every single time you have the opportunity to, when you can influence the right thing to happen.

Braude: So Cardinal O'Malley should release all the names?

Kennedy: Absolutely.

Brown: Jim, let me just respond, I find it kind of humorous, I actually worked very hard on Jessica’s Law and it was weakened down. The district attorneys wanted it, but the pressure from the attorney general's office weakened Jessica’s Law. We had a chance to have a very very strong law to protect our kids and keep sexual predators behind jail for many many years. Not kind of the short time that they’re now getting. So it’s unfortunate that we didn’t do more.




Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.