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The Herald's phantom sex acts


When the Herald first reported that state rep Gloria Fox had spirited a prisoner's girlfriend into Old Colony Correctional Center to see her man, the juiciest, most tabloid-y detail was the revelation that said girlfriend--Joanna Marinova--had formerly been busted for engaging in "sexual acts" with said prisoner, Darrell Jones. Here's the lede of reporter Jessica Van Sack's May 28 cover story:

State Rep. Gloria L. Fox is under state scrutiny for allegedly sneaking a murderer's girlfriend--previously bagged for engaging in "sexual acts" with the killer con--into a state prison in Bridgewater, the Herald has learned [emphasis added].

In a May 29 follow-up piece--in which Fox said she was as stunned as anyone to learn of Marinova and Jones's relationship--Marinova denied the sex-acts claim. That same day, though, the Herald repeated it in an editorial urging that Fox be hit with an ethics probe ("Problem was [sic] Marinova had previously been cited for 'engaging in sexual acts' with Jones in the visitors room"). And on June 1--while again noting Marinova's denial--the Herald stated that it had a disciplinary report which substantiated this claim.

But on June 2, in the Herald's most recent treatment of the Fox/Marinova/Jones contretemps, the sex-acts stuff wasn't mentioned at all. Judging from that story, the scandal is that neither Fox nor Marinova were searched before entering the prison. 

What changed?

Well.... In a May 29 Globe piece, which highlighted the possibility that Jones was being targeted for his criticisms of conditions in Old Colony, Marinova said Jones had previously been disciplined for "touching her knee"--not what most of us think of when we see the phrase "sexual act."

Judging from documentation recently posted by Jones on his blog, Marinova is right, and the Herald is wrong.

Here, for example, is how the reporting staff person at Jones's disciplinary hearing described what happened:

[The corrections officer] observed [Jones] in acts that were in violation of the visiting room policy, however he did not see him engaged in sexual acts [emphasis added].

More important, at the end of the hearing, the charge of "engaging in sexual acts with another" was dismissed. "No evidence exists to support a guilty finding" of that charge, the reporting staff person concluded

If you're inclined to defend the Herald, you could argue that the paper never said Jones and Marinova actually committed verboten "sexual acts," only they'd been "bagged" and "cited" for doing so. But since the Herald's presentation strongly suggested guilty parties being caught and punished--and not, in contrast, being hit with an unfounded allegation that was subsequently dismissed--that's a pretty lame defense.

Perhaps there's a correction in the works, and maybe even an apology. Herald editor Kevin Convey declined comment when I contacted him today, so we'll have to wait and see. 

  • fthomas said:

    A correction? Apology? You make the Herald sounds like a real paper with real standards. What possible difference could it make to them whether their story was accurate? You give them far too much credit. Does a thief care if they took exact change? Let's judge it as we should, as a rag. By that criteria, the story is well-sourced, balanced and sensibly presented.

    June 5, 2009 12:23 AM
  • Farnkoff said:

    I wonder how the Herald goes about screening-out all those boringly ethical and diligent journalism students to assemble a legion of "National Enquirer"-style hacks.

    June 5, 2009 3:18 AM

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