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Parolee could become Romney's Horton

Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) speaks on the third day of the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minnesota, on September 3, 2008. (UPI Photo/Brian Kersey)
Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) speaks on the third day of the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minnesota, on September 3, 2008. (UPI Photo/Brian Kersey) | License Photo

BOSTON, Jan. 3 (UPI) -- The parole of a jewel thief killed in a shootout that left a police officer dead could be Mitt Romney's albatross in a U.S. presidential run, observers say.

The Republican was governor of Massachusetts in 2004 when he appointed two of six Parole Board members who unanimously agreed to release prison lifer Dominic Cinelli, 57, last year, the Boston Herald reported Monday. Cinelli shot and killed a Woburn police officer during a robbery in December.

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"If there's a way to put that in an ad, it would reflect very poorly on Mitt Romney. I wouldn't be surprised if one of Romney's opponents would decide to use this," Democratic strategist Michael Shea said.

Republican analyst Rick Wilson agreed, predicting, "You will certainly see people try and use (the Cinelli case) against him."

Romney, 63, who hasn't announced his intentions yet, lost the GOP's 2008 White House nod to U.S. Sen. John McCain,R-Ariz.

In 1988, explosive reports about crimes committed by another Massachusetts inmate, Willie Horton, after walking away from a weekend furlough torpedoed former Bay State Gov. Michael Dukakis's Democratic presidential campaign. Horton, now 59, was serving life without parole for the 1974 murder of a Massachusetts teenager when in 1986 he failed to return from a weekend furlough, later raping a Maryland woman after stabbing and torturing her fiance.

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Goldman told the Herald he does not see Romney's appointments of Thomas Merigan Jr. and Candace Kochin as a similar threat to Romney's political ambitions because he's too far removed from the Parole Board's unanimous vote granting Cinelli parole.

"The reason Willie Horton was so difficult for Michael was because (Dukakis) pushed the furlough program," Goldman said. "He touted it as one of the big successes of his administration."

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