“We screwed up in terms of how we have handled doing the homework before we answered questions about this issue,” Patrick said at a campaign event. The controversy has become the biggest hurdle facing Patrick’s campaign so far in his race against Republican Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey.
When Patrick, a former lawyer and executive, was first questioned by reporters about the case last week, he said he had written one letter on behalf of convict Benjamin LaGuer 15 years ago.
Patrick has since acknowledged he wrote two letters to the parole board and helped pay for DNA testing for LaGuer in 2001. Though he said that he has no memory of the specific donation, he accepted the claim after a thank-you note addressed to him gave evidence of the contribution.
“In 2001, we were a blessed family, and we were able to make contributions in excess of $100,000 and frankly I couldn’t tell you in detail what any one of them was,” Patrick told the Boston Globe.
Patrick said he did not intend to be misleading in his original statements regarding the case.
LaGuer was convicted of rape in 1983, but long maintained he was innocent and wrongly convicted. Patrick said he wrote to the parole board because he was impressed by letters he received from LaGuer and he was concerned about racism on the jury. The conviction was later affirmed by a 2002 DNA test, and LaGuer is serving a life sentence.
Patrick’s Republican opponent Healey said Patrick’s actions on behalf of LaGuer show his skewed priorities when dealing with crime.
Healey began targeting Patrick in ads this week for being soft on crime. One ad focused on his work in 1985 as a lawyer arguing a sentencing appeal for a Florida man who killed a highway patrolman.
“While lawyers have a right to defend admitted cop killers, do we really want one as governor?” the ad asked.
In a response to the ad, Patrick said, “I don’t apologize for the work I’ve done, and I will not have it trivialized or minimized by someone who has never been inside a courtroom.”
Earlier in the week, both Patrick and Healey held news conferences touting the backing they have from law enforcement. Healey appeared at a news conference with the prosecutor from the Florida case yesterday, as her campaign continued to focus on Patrick’s past.
“[Healey’s] approach is to protect the victims and Deval Patrick’s approach is always to protect convicted criminals,” Healey’s campaign manager Tim O’Brien told the Boston Herald.
A 7/News/Suffolk University poll taken this week showed Patrick ahead of Healey, 49 to 28 percent.