Former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick‘s entry into the 2020 Democratic presidential race is drawing renewed scrutiny toward his efforts to oust officials who had tried to put his brother-in-law, a convicted rapist, on the state’s sex offender registry.
Patrick’s brother-in-law Bernard Sigh was first convicted of spousal rape in 1993 and was again convicted of raping Patrick’s sister earlier this year, The Washington Post reported.
Patrick in 2014 said that he had forced out two Sex Offender Registry Board officials over their attempts to overturn a hearing officer’s decision to keep Sigh off the registry, arguing that the officials’ actions were not appropriate, according to the Post.
“That hearing did involve my brother-in-law, that is true. We’ve never made a secret of that, but it’s still inappropriate, and that’s the reason why I asked for her resignation,” he said, referring to the registry board chairwoman.
Patrick told The Hill in a statement Friday that the head of the board was asked to resign “in part because of her unlawful interference in a matter involving Bernie Sigh.”
“That interference threatened the integrity of the work of the agency and resulted in the Commonwealth having to pay a settlement to a hearing officer who was retaliated against. That demanded accountability,” he said.
“Bernie Sigh’s impact on my family has been complex and painful for all of us,” Patrick also said in the statement. “I love my sister and her children, and believe their chance to heal is best if left out of the public eye.”
“But because of issues raised in a lawsuit filed against me as Governor, her experience is now part of the public record and it is important that the facts are clear,” he added.
The Post reported that the first rape conviction became widely known in 2006 and that the next year hearing officer Attilio Paglia determined that Sigh did not have to register as a sex offender.
Following this, other officials reportedly tried unsuccessfully to overturn Paglia’s decision, and Paglia then reportedly filed a whistleblower lawsuit alleging wrongdoing in the attempt to overturn his decision.
One of the officials who was removed, Saundra Edwards, said in a lawsuit that she resigned after being told she did not do anything wrong, according to the Post.
She reportedly claimed that soon after she resigned, Patrick said she was ousted because of what he described as “inappropriate, at least, maybe unlawful pressuring [to] change the outcome of a case.”
She also reportedly later sued Patrick and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, saying she was defamed and wrongfully fired.
Edwards also reportedly claimed in the lawsuit that Sigh was trying to evade the registry by arguing that “spousal rape is not rape” in Massachusetts.
The Post reported that the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court dismissed Edward’s suit against Patrick in 2017, but her complaint against the state is still pending.
Patrick announced Thursday that he would enter the 2020 Democratic presidential race, joining a crowded field of more than a dozen candidates.
— Updated at 6:18 p.m.