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):