The case of Deval Patrick’s former brother-in-law, twice convicted of rape allegations against Patrick’s sister, is likely to raise uncomfortable questions for the former Massachusetts governor as his 2020 Democratic presidential campaign progresses.
Patrick, 63, entered the crowded 2020 Democratic primary field on Thursday. But the familial saga stretches back to 1993, when Bernard Sigh, then married to Patrick’s sister, Rhonda Patrick-Sigh, was convicted of spousal rape in San Diego, California. Following a short stint in prison, the two reconciled and moved to Milton, Massachusetts.
During Patrick’s successful 2006 run for governor, reports surfaced that Sigh did not register as a sex offender in Massachusetts, potentially violating state law. In 2007, Patrick’s first year as governor, the Sex Offender Registry Board of Massachusetts concluded that Sigh did not have to register as a sex offender because his criminal record was based on actions in a different state.
In September 2014, near the end of Patrick’s two-term governorship, the former head of the Massachusetts Sex Offender Registry Board, Saundra Edwards, alleged in a lawsuit against Patrick she had been pressured by other administration officials not to classify Sigh as a type of offender who would be obligated to register in the state. Edwards said she went along and did so despite her beliefs to the contrary, effectively helping Patrick to do a favor for a family member.
Edwards was later fired, with Patrick claiming her termination was due to a “cumulative loss of confidence.” Patrick denied any improper interference on behalf of his then-brother-in-law.
In June 2017, Edwards’s lawsuit against Patrick was dismissed by the Supreme Judicial Court in Massachusetts.
The issue took on new life in December 2017 when Sigh, now divorced from Rhonda Patrick-Sigh, was arrested in Massachusetts on kidnapping and rape charges. Prosecutors called it a calculated attack that included Sigh hiding in his ex-wife’s closet before committing the crimes.
During the trial, officers testified that Sigh’s actions closely resembled those alleged in the 1993 attacks in California. Throughout the ordeal, Patrick, mentioned as a 2020 Democratic prospect, told confidants that he took issue with how the trial could cause the public to judge his own character.
Sigh was convicted and in June received six to eight years in prison, though the prosecutor asked for 17 to 22 years.
After announcing late last year he wouldn’t run for president, Patrick changed his mind last week.
His brother-in-law’s saga is among several bits from his past that may become campaign issues, with national media outlets resurfacing the details.
Patrick’s connections to a series of banking and financial services firms may give rivals ammunition at a time when populists such as Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Bernie Sanders of Vermont have gained traction by bashing such institutions. Patrick did work for subprime mortgage lenders such as ACC Capital Holdings, in years prior to the 2008 financial collapse.
Patrick also worked for the oil company Texaco at the time when it was forced to settle a massive racial discrimination lawsuit for $176 million — the largest of its kind at the time.
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