Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Reilly's Hammer Strikes Again!

The sudden, tragic and clearly unnecessary death of Milena Del Valle in a Big Dig tunnel may lead to some needed corrections. Meanwhile, every political clown in the arena is up to his tricks.

each could have predicted POTUS-envying Williard Mitt Romney seeking a scapegoat and going after long-term nemesis Turnpike Authority head Matt Amorello. Romney is a media slut.

However, Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Tom Reilly is a bit more complicated. His apparent grandstanding in calling the tunnel a crime scene and promising a negligent homicide investigation bears observing now and watching for developments.

The key angle is that Reilly has a whole career of law enforcement, from the district attorney side through today. He has a single tool in his tool chest. It is the hammer of prosecution. We have noted how everything in his campaign has a criminal-justice spin.

On this death, various state and various federal agencies will investigate.

We might ask at this point why Reilly wants to take the case out of the hands of the Suffolk County DA Dan Conley. That DA has the charge to investigate and prosecute homicides here, not the commonwealth's AG. Unfortunately for the case, Reilly opens himself up to grandstanding charges by trying to lead on this. Perhaps he's that concerned, but...

It is also worth noting the Boston Herald piece by political bureau goddess Kimberly Atkins on Reilly's money connection to Big Dig contractors and lobbyists. It would be good and pure politics for Reilly to be self-righteous and indignant in his noble efforts to protect us, each and all. The same effort might serve as insulation from association with the same villains he and Romney want to blame.

On the investigation he promised, Reilly told the Herald in a separate article:
"This young woman was tragically killed . . . and responsibility needs to be allocated," state Attorney General Tom Reilly said in announcing the launch of a negligent-homicide probe into Monday night’s tragedy. "Was it the design company? Was it the construction company that installed (the panel)? Was it the manufacturer, or was it the testers? . . . We are going to get to the bottom of this."
Along with his one-tool belt, Reilly tries to wear his figurative white hat. That is the wont of professional prosecutors. So, it is impossible to separate the campaign bluster from his bent. However, he must surely be aware how far behind he is in the PR war. In particular, gubernatorial rival Deval Patrick drops press releases like a molting swan does feathers. Because Reilly always has to have his crime peg, he is far behind in decorating the campaign field.

Back to the current issue, fortunately for the candidates, liability may not be even tentatively assigned until after the Democratic primary and maybe not until after the general election. The Globe piece on the difficulties of proving negligent homicide makes this clear. For example:
To bring a charge of manslaughter, Reilly would need evidence that showed more than gross negligence in the construction of the tunnel, the legal specialists said in interviews. He also would need to show that people acted with "wanton and reckless" disregard for the safety of those who used the tunnel.
Reilly surely knows all these obstacles, but that has not stopped his fulminations. Even if he knows his strongest statements are jive, this is his best opportunity to show his stuff in many weeks.

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Bob Neer said...

So, uh, you don't think this whole tunnel collapse thing is a big deal? What do you think Reilly, as the Commonwealth's top law enforcement official, should do?

Aaron said...

Just curious:
What's the criminal justice spin on increasing the emphasis on math and science in our public schools?
What's the criminal justice spin on investing $500 million in the University of Massachusetts?
What's the criminal justice spin on making prescription drugs more affordable by importing them from Canada?
What's the criminal justice spin on making school lunches healthier?

All of these things, and many more can be found in the many position papers on Reilly's website. I fail to see what criminal justice has to do with any of these things. And as for him being "prosecutorial," he's a prosecutor!! That's what he does! Poets write poetry, doctors perform surgery, and prosecutors prosecute, get over it!

Likes Bikes 2 said...

Yes, but the question remains:

What was "The Hammer" doing during the construction of the tunnels?

It is the same question many have for him with regard to the child abuse allegations against the Catholic Church.

On another topic, I have seen many people saying that Reilly's position was vindicated by the SJC's decision on the ballot intiative. The Globe's analysis seemed to be this. What I've seen very little comment on is how the opinion also said that they ruled on a narrow basis, and that there were other issues that could have been considered.

Those other issues included the reasons the other Attorney's General and others encouraged Reilly to deny this petition. Given that he ignored those reasons, he still made a political calculation that ignoring the other reasons (which are perfectly valid for the AG to use) would not hurt him in his campaign for governor.

The bottom line is, regardless of his legal position on the challenge to the petition, he decided politically to allow it.

For that he should still be held accountable.

Mass Marrier said...

For Bob, I don't see how you get that. Of course, he should be concerned. The question is whether he should undercut the DA here, and having been a DA, he knows what that would be like to have an AG seeking higher office to take over part of his job. His actions end up appearing to be political games instead of real duty. He should avoid that actively.

As to his spin, yes, he has subsequently expanded some of his action plan with broader and most specific goals. Yet overall, this dobbled together program is an astonishing, uncomfortable and sometimes amusing repetition of I'm a prosecutor and have a justice angle on safe schools, energy, the environment. Go to each area and see how he plugs away at these. We are left to wonder whether he has the vision to go beyond his prosecutor background. He makes us nervous by constantly coming at complex issues from crime angles.

And to his culpability, yes, and he was chatting with and taking money from some of these same people that he might have observed and monitored within his authority during and after construction. What role has he played? The Herald for one is not content to let him play Matt Dillon on this one, at least not without answering some performance and money questions.

For the SSM issue, I see shortcomings in both Reilly's certification and in GLAD's suit. Both focused narrowly on the single issue on which the SJC ruled. For Reilly to claim he was right all along at the least should include the qualification of "in the one narrow issue in question." Greaney/Ireland's expansion made it plain what the underlying legal issues are. GLAD blew it. Reilly blew it. Neither did enough to settle this.

One could hope that the legislators noted in the opinions the likelihood that writing such discrimination into the commonwealth constitution would not stand the light of day or the scrutiny of courts. They then might have sense enough today or when agendum 20 arises to avoid doing something that stupid.

romablog said...

The DA only has the power of the DA's office behind him. When there's something horrible like this, of course the AG should get involved; he's better equipped to carry the investigations out.

"He makes us nervous by constantly coming at complex issues from crime angles."
Again, to borrow from Aaron:
"What's the criminal justice spin on increasing the emphasis on math and science in our public schools?
What's the criminal justice spin on investing $500 million in the University of Massachusetts?
What's the criminal justice spin on making prescription drugs more affordable by importing them from Canada?
What's the criminal justice spin on making school lunches healthier?"

"What was "The Hammer" doing during the construction of the tunnels?"

He was, like everyone else, letting the proper authorities do their job. Unfortunatley, the Turnpike Authority and the Governor completely failed. Now, Tom Reilly is stepping in because that's what his job requires of him.

Mass Marrier said...

Saying or writing something more than once doesn't make it true, just repetitive.

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