The most dispiriting race of this primary season is the one for Middlesex District Attorney. Middlesex County is huge, and the District Attorney’s job is crucial. He or she is on the front line of investigating and prosecuting actual crimes committed against actual people who live in the county. The job needs to be done properly.
Unfortunately (as has already been noted by others), neither Democratic candidate inspires a great deal of confidence (and there’s no Republican candidate – bravo, Mass. GOP). Michael Sullivan’s embarrassing series of ethical missteps, widely and justifiably covered in the press, are only one aspect of a larger problem with his candidacy, which is that he doesn’t seem to be especially well qualified. Rather, he looks like the classic local pol who hops from government job to government job (sometimes holding down a couple at the same time), counting on voter apathy and, in Sullivan’s case, personal and family connections, to install him in the next post. His qualifications that seem most relevant to the job? He was a low-level Assistant DA in the late 1980s, and he worked in the Attorney General’s office briefly after that. Good grief.
Marian Ryan, for her part, at least has a lot of experience as a prosecutor. But in her brief tenure after being appointed by Governor Patrick to fill out the unexpired term of Gerry Leone, she has not exactly covered herself in glory. Most famously, the hideous Jared Remy case ended in tragedy after being badly mishandled by her office, and her subsequent withholding of part of the report she herself commissioned to figure out what went wrong was a huge mistake.
In addition, a lot of people in the DA’s office have resigned under her tenure, which doesn’t exactly suggest that she inspires confidence and positive morale in the office (though, to be fair, high turnover in that office is not uncommon). Being a state prosecutor is a hard job – the pay is lousy, and the caseloads are high – and if the person at the helm makes it unpleasant to work there, how can we possibly expect qualified lawyers to want to take on the job?
So the choices are not ideal. We support Ryan, because we think that the Middlesex DA at least needs to be qualified for the job, and because Sullivan’s ethical lapses are too serious to ignore in a person with primary responsibility for enforcing the law. But we urge Ryan to learn from past mistakes (as, to her credit, she has promised to do), and we hope for the best going forward.
As you know I believe Marian Ryan is the best candidate for this office. I do feel that this is a huge endorsement and the way the BMG wrote up the endorsement is very fair assessment of both candidates.
Andrei Radulescu-Banu says
I think this endorsement of Marian Ryan is pretty clear in what it does not endorse: Marian Ryan’s tenure so far.
What I’d like to see is how she’ll be making up for the morale problem in her office, and what’s her plan going forward in being more transparent and accountable. People make mistakes, and people do change, but the first step is to acknowledge that there is a problem.
Attorneys that I know and trust despise Marian Ryan, who, despite her campaign rhetoric, seems only to care only about sending people to prison.
Massachusetts is supposedly a very liberal state, but we have some of the nastiest and most mean-spirited criminal justice policies in the nation. The only thing good you can say about us is that we don’t have a death penalty (only two states in the Northeast do: NH and PA, and of course no other Western democracy has the barbaric practice).
Leading the effort to maintain the ugly status quo in MA are the District Attorneys who mainly seem to want to throw as many people as possible in prison, including many who suffer from addictions or mental illness or both. Marian Ryan is part of that.
We have a chance to elect a DA who will be far more enlightened: Michael Sullivan. I have heard him speak many times, often referring to an excellent book “The New Jim Crow.” My friends who are most concerned about criminal justice have endorsed him. So have Malcom Astley and Mary Dunn, parents of Lauren Astley who was horribly murdered by her ex-boyfriendd. (I have tremendous admiration for how Malcom and Mary have handled their tragic loss, not screaming for vengeance but seeking to educate young people about the risks in dating; Malcom went so far that, as the verdict in the murder trial was announced, he went over to the perpetrator’s family and consoled them on their loss).
Scott Harshbarger, IMHO the most decent of recent DAs of Middlesex County, not only endorses Michael Sullivan, but is his campaign manager
I have not always been supportive of the Sullivan family. I disagreed with the late Walter Sullivan (Michael’s father) on many issues.
But Michael Sullivan is different and I am excited by the prospect of having a decent DA who will do far more than simply seek to punish and imprison.
Meant the header to read: “Disgusting endorsement!”
You do realize that penalties are the subject of legislation rather than prosecutorial whim, right? Yes, there is discretion about what charges to bring and sentences to seek, but if you were trying to suggest that Ryan is unduly merciless in that regard you did not make that case above.
From one of your links:
That’s staggering: $320,000 a year, almost three times what he made as clerk of courts.
I hate this race. We had no one better for our largest county?
Write in David Kravitz 😉
I have a strong pro-Sullivan bias and appreciate that many recommend my endorsement of him in my own thread as a heartfelt one coming from a close personal relationship. I think the campaign had been excessively negative, Sullivan tried to run an honest and positive campaign but Ryan-having no record or accomplishments to run on-took the low road early. Michael has long been a sensitive and progressive candidate on a multitude of issues-recidivism which he has talked about reducing since he was a city councilor (to some effect I might add in gang reduction), he has supported grassroots peacemaking as a law enforcement component, opposed the Patriot Act, and was the first mayor in MA to marry gay couples and went out of his way to make a statement on equality long before it was popular even in progressive circles. It is time we have an empathetic DA-empathetic to their staff, to victims, and even to criminals. Michael Sullivan has that empathy and that drive, and I strongly disagree with his caricature as a stale Irish pol in this blog and the Globe.
if he didn’t, you know, behave the way the caricature would predict…
…regarding which candidate has gone negative.
The Boston Globe article on his ethical lapses in judgement is enough of a reason to not want him as the District Attorney. I encourage people to look up Michael Sullivan in the Boston Globe search field and read the article that ran on Labor Day. He is lining his own pockets
All you need to know about acting DA Ryan you can find in the multiple articles from the Globe outlining Middlesex DA staff resigning because of Ryan, her withholding of public documents (paid for by the taxpayers) in a cover-up attemt over the Remy mess . . .and the Waltham News Trib editorial pointing out that Ryan failed to notify citizens regarding a murder in that city for over a week.
I have had the pleasure of meeting both candidates in the race, though at separate times.
Marian Ryan has been much more accessible than Michael Sullivan, recently. I first got to know Marian through a friend of mine, a State Representative, and she seemed OK to me. I have had more relationship building than Michael Sullivan, as well.
I just recently met Michael Sullivan, whom I know was Mayor of Cambridge during the Gay Marriage debate, but I also understand that this is a separate time from then, and a different seat to consider.
I, after some thought, felt that Marian Ryan is the best candidate in the race. I didn’t get that impression from Michael Sullivan once I met him. It was still a pleasure to meet him and speak with him, albeit briefly.
Not an attack ad or mailer. A first person account of the DA’s office under Acting DA Ryan.
The Sullivan campaign is well aware of this and it is distasteful. Stay tuned to see the breaking news on Sullivan on Monday. I am sure it is going to turn many of his supporters against him.
What is it?
Andrei Radulescu-Banu says
It’s very troubling testimony. Sadly, it’s not something that will necessarily help Sullivan, who has his own ethical lapses.
Where was it?
…I’m pretty sure I heard Ryan say she has also personally both been victim and witness to a crime, but not a lot of details. Anybody have any insight?
Ryan’s fiance was murdered in front of her and I believe she was also shot (or at least injured) in that encounter.
People I know and trust who are closer to the DA’s office than I am say that Marian Ryan is the person you’d want as your lawyer if you needed one and they are supporting her for this office. I agree that being a good DA takes more than being a good attorney. Like others who have posted here, I hope that she will learn from her mistakes and become a better DA over time.
That’s too little, too late for the Martel family and Kristina Hill who bravely replayed her painful account here. I doubt she’s be doing that for some hack, no she is doing that since Sullivan is the real deal. An empathetic listener, a vocal manager, and a transparent policy maker. Everything Marian Ryan is not by all objective measures.
Most of us are fortunate not to have to need the criminal justice system in our day to day lives. The Martels, Kristina, and sadly my own family are testament to the pain endures by those who have. The fact that Ryan herself knew this pain in her own life, and still covered up and redacted evidence of her incompetence and was cold towards these victims speaks volumes. I am fully confident we will get the DA we deserve tomorrow.