Recent cases suggest bias in Mass. justice
Former state Rep. Carlos Henriquez was expelled from the state legislature by a House vote he and his supporters say had no basis in state law. Jailed on two misdemeanor assault charges, Henriquez will likely be released next month before the hastily-scheduled April 29 election to replace him occurs.
Henriquez’s conviction, and the Legislature’s removal of the Dorchester representative raise interesting questions about the impartiality of the state’s justice system, especially in light of recent cases of alleged assault.
A Boston Globe investigation this week revealed that Jared Remy, son of sports commentator Jerry Remy, amassed a rap sheet for multiple assaults, threats and harassment of friends, girlfriends and one police officer, but received no convictions or jail time before he was charged last August in the murder of a girlfriend.
Henriquez was convicted of assaulting a woman Jan. 15. His sentence, 2-and-a-half years with six months served, was highly unusual, according his attorney, Stephanie Soriano-Mills.
“I was a prosecuting attorney for four years,” she said. “It’s something I never would have recommended for someone with no prior record. He had no assaults, no restraining orders. From a prosecutor’s perspective, you take that into consideration and he should have gotten probation or a continuance without a finding.”
Facing a process similar to Henriquez’s expulsion from the House, embattled Suffolk County Register of Probate Patricia Campatelli is fighting back, challenging the Trial Court’s authority to remove her from a seat to which voters elected her.
Their cases differ in some key facets. Henriquez was convicted of a misdemeanor assault for allegedly hitting a woman and is serving time in the Billerica House of Corrections. His supporters, and several detractors, say there is nothing in the House rules authorizing the body to expel a member for a misdemeanor.
Campatelli was accused of striking an employee, Timothy Perry, twice in the face, but Perry had not filed charges. Also, an outside investigator uncovered allegations that Campatelli regularly used foul language in front of employees, took lengthy and frequent cigarette breaks and maintained Spartan office hours.
She is currently on paid leave from her $122,500-a-year job while a special committee of the Supreme Judicial Court reviews her case.
Unlike Campatelli’s case, Henriquez’s offense had no discernible relation to his duties as a legislator. The alleged assault took place outside his Dorchester district in Arlington at 3 a.m.
The Legislature’s vote to strip Henriquez of his office was based on a law aimed at lawmakers caught accepting bribes or otherwise seeking compensation in exchange for executing the duties of his or her office. In fact, there is no prohibition against legislators who have committed misdemeanor offenses from serving in office.
“Who are we, as people who can’t vote in his district, to remove him from office?” says state Rep. Russell Holmes, a Mattapan Democrat who was one of the five lawmakers to vote against expelling Henriquez from the House. “There is no rule that says if you go to jail, we can remove you from office.”
Others who voted against expelling Henriquez, including Somerville Rep. Carl Sciortino, argued the same point.
“The Legislature opened up a slippery slope that allows them to remove anyone at any time they choose,” said Soriano-Mills.
Other state representatives who have been convicted of misdemeanor crimes in recent years were not expelled from the Legislature. Former state Rep. Paul Kujowski was convicted of operating a motor vehicle under the influence in 2004 and remained in the House. Former state Rep. Anthony Galluccio, who had two prior convictions for driving under the influence, pleaded guilty in December 2009 to leaving the scene of a car crash in which he rear-ended a car, injuring two occupants.
Galluccio was sentenced to six months of home confinement, during which he was to be allowed to cast votes in the Senate, but after failing a court-ordered Breathalyzer test, he was sentenced to a year in prison.
He resigned his house seat in January 2010.
When House leadership and other elected officials including Gov. Deval Patrick and Mayor Martin Walsh asked Henriquez to resign his seat he refused, maintaining his innocence. His lawyer, Stephanie Soriano Mills, said he may be released as soon as next month.
Although, in arguing for his expulsion, House leaders said Henriquez’s confinement would prevent him from discharging the duties of his office, Soriano Mills says Henriquez could likely be freed before April 14, two weeks before his successor is seated.
Five Democrats are vying for the seat he vacated in a special election primary that will be held April 1. The general election will be held April 29, the same day nomination papers for the Nov. 5 election are due.
Henriquez’s supporters say he will likely run in November for re-election to the seat from which he was expelled.