EXCLUSIVE: New information casts doubt on Romney’s account of his 1981 arrest

A police log report, published in the Natick Sun newspaper in 1981 and obtained by Blue Mass Group, calls into question a portion of Mitt Romney’s account of his arrest in 1981.  When news of the arrest emerged during Romney’s 1994 Senate race, Romney told the Boston Globe that he was released after his arrest without having to post bail, but the police log suggests that that may not be true.

The police log also says that Romney was charged with operating an unregistered motorboat.  Previously, the only offense Romney was known to have been charged with was disorderly conduct.

To our knowledge, this police log has not been publicly linked with Romney since it was published in 1981.  Details, including images of the newspaper report (which hilariously identifies the arrestee as “Willard M. Romney”), are on the flip.

Romney, you may recall, was arrested in 1981 after disobeying instructions from a park police officer that he was not allowed to launch his boat onto Lake Cochituate in Wayland.  According to the Globe story (paywall) by Frank Phillips, published May 5, 1994:

Mitt Romney was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct in the early 1980s after allegedly defying an officer’s order.

Romney’s arrest came in June 1981 when he proceeded to launch his motorboat at Wayland’s Lake Cochituate only moments after a park police officer had told him not to launch the craft or face a $50 fine….

According to Romney’s version of the events, he had taken his family to the lake for a summer outing. As he was about to launch his boat, a park guard informed him that the license number of the boat had been painted over.

Romney said the guard told him not to put the boat in the water or he would be ticketed and fined $50. Frustrated and feeling that the license was still somewhat visible, Romney defied the order, saying it would be worth his while to be fined $50 to enjoy the day on the lake with his family.

“I figured I was at the state park with my kids. My five kids were in the car wondering why we weren’t going out in the boat, so I said I’d launch and pay the fine.”

The charges were later dropped.  According to the Globe:

[t]he charges against Romney were dropped several days later and officially dismissed in February 1982 at Natick District Court….

Romney said … the reason the case was dropped was that he had threatened to charge the officer and his agency, then called the Department of Environmental Affairs, with false arrest.

Why did the Globe have to rely on “Romney’s version of the events,” you might ask?  Because,

[a]t Romney’s request, the judge also agreed to seal the records, making them unavailable for public inspection…. The district court has refused a Globe request to unseal the files.

Here’s the part of Romney’s story that our new information calls into question (emphasis mine):

Romney said he was handcuffed and taken to the Natick police station and booked.  ”There I was, dripping wet in a bathing suit,” Romney said. He said the clerk magistrate let him go without bail.

However, the Police Log from the June 18, 1981 edition of the Natick Sun reported as follows (emphasis mine):

Game Warden William Erickson brought Willard M. Romney of Belmont to the police station.  Romney was charged with disorderly conduct and operating an unregistered motorboat.  He was released on bail.

Of course, it’s possible that the police log is wrong, and that Romney’s version is correct.  It would seem that the only way to find out for sure would be for Romney to ask the Natick District Court to unseal the records.  We hope he will do so.

Also noteworthy is that the 1994 Globe story did not report that Romney had been charged with operating an unregistered motorboat; it mentioned only the disorderly conduct charge, presumably because that is the only charge that Romney told the Globe about.  Assuming that these laws have not changed since 1981 (I have not researched that point), it would seem that operating an unregistered motorboat is prohibited by Mass. General Laws chapter 90B, section 2, and is punishable by a $50 fine under chapter 90B, section 14.  However, it further appears that section 14(a) allows a first offender under section 2 to “confess the offense charged,” at which point the offense is deemed non-criminal (the statute is unclear, at least to me, as to whether the fine must be paid or whether it is waived for a first offense).  Of course, the precise offense charged and its manner of disposition is impossible to know for sure without seeing the court records.

The court records might also shed light on why there was a delay of eight months (June 1981 to February 1982) between the time that Romney claims the charges were “dropped” and when they were “officially dismissed.”

Finally, as far as we know, this report is the first time since 1981 that the arresting officer – William Erickson – has been publicly identified.  However, we have not been able to locate Mr. Erickson.

Here are images of the newspaper reports.

Full page (click for larger):

Just the bit about “Willard M. Romney” (click for larger):



14 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. Look...

    I’m as happy as the next guy to pile on Romney, but even I don’t care that 19 years ago, Romney misstated the facts of a terribly minor run-in with the law that happened 32 years ago.

    Heck, if I’d taken my 5 kids out for a day on the lake and a park ranger told me that I’d have to pay a $50 fine, I might take the “pay the fine” route rather than tell my kids we couldn’t go boating. This is actually one of the most warm, personable stories I’ve ever heard about Romney. He was thinking of his kids, for pete’s sake!

    • Every little bit helps

      And Romney’s attitude that he can use his money to exempt himself from the obligations that apply to ordinary people comes through loud and clear here.

    • It's convenient that every time Mitt's ever done something wrong in

      the past, he “misstates the facts.” It’s so convenient, in fact, that it’s beyond belief.

      I’m sorry, but if I was ever arrested, I think I’d remember the facts pretty damn clearly. Hell, I remember every time I’ve ever been pulled over — and I’ve never even been given a ticket from those occasions.

      Ditto incidents like how he viciously bullied that kid in high school, rounding up a posse, or kidnapped those guys in college (shaving their heads, too), or put Seamus the dog on top of his car and then claim it lived a long, happy life, when in fact one of his sons (for heaven’s sake) admitted the dog ran away as soon as they arrived to their destination.

      Ditto his residential status for his taxes, whether or not he was a freaking CEO, positions he held years, days or even hours ago…

      There’s a consistent pattern. Mitt Romney and the “facts” have little in common with each other, and he deserves none of the public’s trust when he claims to speak them.

      RyansTake   @   Mon 1 Oct 4:20 PM
  2. Not relevant

    I would hate for the focus to turn on some bozo arrest of Mitt Romney rather than his vision for the country, which is to “broaden” the tax base (i.e. make the rich pay less and everyone else pay more), and give even more control and access to multinational corporations to do whatever they want at the expense of everyone else.

  3. This has been picked up at DKos...

    …by Kaili Joy Gray, one of the front-pagers over there. The response has been similar to the response here – we have bigger fish than this fish story.

  4. Any chance he was with

    Scott Brown?

    • 1981? Only if it was a photo shoot

      Scott was too busy reading about his not-great-grandfather and posing for Cosmo in those days.

      Neither Scott’s modeling career nor Romney’s boating problems strike me as particularly relevant to this year’s election. This is not, to me, a particularly exciting “gotcha.” Most voters didn’t care about Bush’s drunk driving, remember?

  5. I'm not sure this passes the shoe on the other foot test.

    In other words, if this were Obama rather than Romney I don’t think it would make me reconsider my support for the President.

    • if the shoe were on the other foot...

      Obama’s been called a Kenyan Muslim “terrorist fist-jabber” and a 1/3 of this country refuses to believe he was even born here, instead preferring to think there’s some vast conspiracy that started when he was a baby and involved the entire state of Hawaii.

      I find it hard to imagine that, were the shoe on the other foot, he wouldn’t be called things like “thug” and ‘living ‘the gang life’ and other assorted dismissives with racial undertones. That’s a favorite past time of the Tea Party, after all.

      Were the President ever arrested, I actually find it hard to imagine he’d have been elected. Mitt Romney has been forgiven every incidence of wrongdoing he’s ever done in his life; Barrack Obama is still having to show people his birth certificate.

      RyansTake   @   Mon 1 Oct 4:28 PM
  6. Backfire danger

    My first reaction to this trivial story was to wonder how long it will take the Rovians to compare this to Chappaquidick. I think this story is a loser.

  7. This is as close to street cred Willard will ever get.

    FOX will be calling him ‘bad ass’ in 3… 2… 1…

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