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January 14, 2004
Did Dean Cover For Abusive Staff Member?

Howard Dean, who has accused George Bush of waffling on domestic abuse -- as if the federal government had jurisdiction anyway -- wrote a supportive affadavit for a state trooper on his security detail who later was discovered to be a wife beater, according to ABC News:

In his presidential campaign, and as governor of Vermont before that, Howard Dean has taken a tough, zero-tolerance stand on domestic violence, accusing the Bush administration of not being committed to the issue. Yet Dean said he had no idea that one of the men closest to him was repeatedly abusing his wife. Dennis Madore, the state trooper who headed Dean's security detail for nine years, was "a classic abuser," according to Jerry Diamond, a Dean supporter and former Vermont attorney general who was the lawyer for Madore's wife, Donna, when she filed for divorce in 1997. ...

Court records show that Madore's lawyer, Phil White, also a close friend of Dean, was first made aware of the abuse allegations on March 7, 1997. On May 23, 1997, Dean inserted himself in the case, filing a three-page affidavit at White's request for use in a custody hearing, in which he described Madore as "a firm but gentle disciplinarian" and a "wonderful parent."

According to Diamond, it was a highly unusual move. "I'm sure that there are very few cases on record where a governor might have done that," he told ABCNEWS. Diamond said the affidavit raised questions about the governor's judgment in getting involved and was deeply upsetting to Donna Madore, whom he said suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder because of the domestic violence.

"I think she was shocked, more than disappointed," said Diamond, who said he was authorized to speak for Donna Madore. "She was shocked that the governor would do something like that."

I doubt that Howard Dean actually knew that the state trooper abused his wife in front of their children (attorney-client privilege would have prevented White from informing Dean), but doesn't Dean's affadavit in a Vermont court while governor present some clear conflict of interest? Granted, the judiciary is independent, but filing amicus briefs on behalf of the staff in a divorce proceeding, especially when Dean could not possibly have known the relevant facts at hand, sure looks intimidating to me. I'd like to know how Dean came to the conclusion that Madore was a firm but gentle disciplinarian when he signed the affadavit, which as Dean should know is sworn testimony. Testifying that he had knowledge of something he clearly didn't may not meet the legal test for perjury, but it's certainly not ethical, and as a sitting governor the ethical lapse is even more significant.

It's not like he wasn't warned, either:

But in 1997, Dean, by his own account, ignored a warning he received about Madore just a few days after he filed the affidavit. In a phone call to his Burlington home on June 1, 1997, Maggie Benson — a longtime Dean supporter and friend of Donna Madore — told the governor that Dennis Madore was an unfit parent and that Dean could damage himself politically by being involved.

According to Dean's handwritten notes on the call, he hung up on the supporter because he construed her tone to be threatening. "She said she did not believe Dennis was a good father and I told her the conversation was inappropriate," Dean wrote.

After hanging up on Benson, Dean called the trooper's lawyer, White, who told him to write down his recollection of the conversation. There is no indication in the governor's notes that Benson specifically mentioned domestic violence.

Dean never reported the conversation to the police (and White's omissions should cause Dean to reconsider their relationship). As the executive for Vermont and nominally in charge of law enforcement, Dean had a duty to report the allegations to the authorities. Even as a doctor, if Dean suspected abuse, he would be obligated to report it. This call came from one of Dean's own supporters, and yet all he did was talk to the trooper's lawyer. Having just filed an affadavit a few days earlier, one would hope that he would want to investigate, on his own at least, as to whether his endorsement of Madore as a "gentle" parent was accurate, in order to make sure that justice was served. Instead, Dean took no action at all after the single conversation with the trooper's lawyer.

Howard Dean, who is so good at casting stones, apparently lives in glass houses more frequently than previously thought. While scolding Bush for not paying attention to domestic abuse, Dean spent his time actively avoiding confronting it in his own office. How many more of these issues need to arise before Dean's complete lack of credibility is finally recognized by the Democratic Party?

UPDATE: Blogs for Bush posted this almost simultaneously to me. Also, welcome to all Hugh Hewitt listeners and readers!

UPDATE II: Glenn Reynolds, Andrew Sullivan, and Mickey Kaus feel that this is a cheap shot hit piece. Only Kaus gets specific; he thinks that there is no way that Dean could have known the affadavit was factually untrue. Actually, I agree with that, as my post above states. My issue with Deans actions are these:

1. What is a sitting governor doing by intervening in a divorce proceeding on behalf of a staff member? Doesn't this at least appear to be an intimidation attempt, and also a bit of influence peddling? After all, governors appoint judges, and the judge hearing this case has to be mindful that Dean's support could be helpful to his own career ... which is why governors shouldn't go out of their way to involve themselves in court cases.

2. Why did Dean testify to something for which he had no specific knowledge? Doesn't that also present some ethical issues?

3. The information about the phone call from his supporter is a bit murky, but if Dean heard that Madore was an unfit parent in some specific manner (like abuse), didn't he have an obligation as the head of law enforcement in Vermont to report that information to the police? Failing that, just to withdraw his affadavit in the case?

I agree that Dean probably didn't actively obstruct justice for someone he knew to be an abuser, but it appears that he nudged the Vermont justice system in certain directions to help out a staff member. It points out some questionable ethics from the man who paints himself as a reformer.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at January 14, 2004 7:11 PM

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» Dean's Past Catches Up To Him - Again from Blogs for Bush
ABC News reported today that Dean is now at the center of another controversy. In his presidential campaign, and as governor of Vermont before that, Howard Dean has taken a tough, zero-tolerance stand on domestic violence, accusing the Bush administrat... [Read More]

Tracked on January 14, 2004 8:48 PM

» Governor Howard Dean — Oath-Helper! from BeldarBlog
I don't think Democratic Presidential candidate Howard Dean has been shown to coddle wife-beaters. But I disagree in this instance with a quartet of prominent bloggers who dismiss as meaningless a recent news report regarding an affidavit then-Gov. Dea... [Read More]

Tracked on January 15, 2004 5:16 PM

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