Despite repeated warnings over the years from the state attorney general’s office that the confidentiality agreements were inappropriate, former attorney general Scott Harshbarger — brought in to conduct an outside review — found last December that the agreements were legal, if dubious. Harshbarger called for “care and prudence” in the future.
Pam Wilmot, executive director of Common Cause Massachusetts, offered a clearer assessment: “This is the people’s business that is being conducted in secret.” If only Harshbarger, who once headed Common Cause’s national office, had been as forthright.
Massachusetts State Police
Web activist threatened over online arrest video
Log on to Conte2006.com — a Web site operated by an antagonist of Worcester County district attorney John Conte — and you will see something unusual: streaming video of a man being arrested in his home.
Here’s something even more unusual: even though the video was posted with the permission of the arrestee, State Police have threatened Conte2006.com’s webmaster, Leominster resident Mary T. Jean, with arrest, prosecution, and up to two years in prison if she doesn’t remove it from her site.
The politics of all this are bewildering. Conte is retiring. Jean’s lawyer until recently was Daniel Shea, one of the candidates seeking to succeed Conte, and Jean is Shea’s former campaign manager. The man who is seen being handcuffed in front of family members, Paul Pechonis, of Northborough, has been charged with posting threats against Westborough District Court judge Paul Waickowski. The arrest, captured by a “baby cam” in Pechonis’s home, was carried out by State Police troopers assigned to Conte’s office, and is somehow supposed to demonstrate that Conte has used those troopers inappropriately.
Of more significance is that Pechonis and Jean believe the video proves Pechonis was arrested without a warrant. And that’s why this is an important issue. Since no one other than the State Police objects to the video’s being posted, we must assume that it is they who believe their rights are somehow being violated. But how can that be? They are seen carrying out their public duties: arresting a citizen and temporarily depriving him of his freedom. Our right to keep tabs on how the police use that power is vital.
US District Court judge Dennis Saylor has kept the video alive and streaming by issuing several preliminary injunctions. In an April ruling, he comes off as mystified by Jean’s and Pechonis’s motives but clear on the Constitution: “I confess that I … don’t understand why the arrest is really relevant to anything; but nonetheless, it is used by and intended by plaintiff [Jean] to be part of a political campaign or protest, and so it goes to the core of what the First Amendment is intended to protect.”
The case remains in the courts.
Ron LeClair and David Morissette
Peace is not a family value at Fourth of July parade
Give Ron LeClair at least a little credit. He could have come up with some phony reason for banning an anti-war float from last year’s Fourth of July parade in Winslow, Maine. You know: security, traffic, whatever. Instead, LeClair was right up front about his reasons.