6 months in jail for lawmaker Henriquez
January 15, 2014
By Maria Cramer and Michael Levenson, Boston Globe
Dorchester Democrat sentenced to 6 months in assault case
MEDFORD — State Representative Carlos Henriquez will spend six months in prison after a jury convicted him Wednesday of holding down a woman and punching her in the chest after she refused to have sex with him.
Soon after the 37-year-old Dorchester Democrat was led away from the courtroom in handcuffs, colleagues in the State House began calling for his resignation. House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo said he would refer the matter to the House Ethics Committee to begin the formal process for expulsion in the event Henriquez refuses to step down.
Governor Deval Patrick and Mayor Martin J. Walsh of Boston, a Democrat who served alongside Henriquez in the Legislature, echoed the calls for his resignation. Henriquez endorsed and campaigned for Walsh in the mayoral race.
“This is a sad day for the Fifth Suffolk district,” Walsh said, referring to the district Henriquez represents, which covers parts of Roxbury and Dorchester. “Violence against women is an epidemic and is totally and universally unacceptable.”
Jurors convicted Henriquez of some of the acts of violence he was accused of, but acquitted him of others. The lawmaker was found guilty of two counts of assault and battery, but he was acquitted of a charge that he had struck the victim in her face. Jurors also found Henriquez not guilty of witness intimidation and larceny.
Dressed in a dark suit and tie, Henriquez was without expression as Cambridge District Court Judge Michele Hogan said she was sending him to prison in part because of the serious nature of his crime and because of his refusal to accept responsibility for his actions.
“When a woman tells you she doesn’t want to have sex, that means she does not want to have sex,” Hogan said. “You don’t hit her. You don’t punch her. . . . I’m very concerned that you’re not remorseful.”
Hogan sentenced Henriquez to 2½ years in the House of Correction but ordered him to serve only six months of the sentence.
Middlesex prosecutors had asked that Henriquez be ordered to serve one year of a 2½-year sentence, the maximum for assault and battery.
Stephanie Soriano-Mills, Henriquez’s lawyer, had asked Hogan to sentence Henriquez to probation, citing his clean record and the jury’s decision to acquit on some of the charges. She called the sentence harsh.
“I don't believe that same sentence may have been given to other defendants who may have come before this court,” she said.
Soriano-Mills vowed to appeal the verdict. She said she did not know whether Henriquez plans to resign his seat.
Other defense lawyers agreed that it is extremely unusual for a defendant with no prior criminal record to be sent to jail for a misdemeanor conviction. First-time offenders are typically sentenced to two years of probation and ordered to attend a batterer’s program, said Michael Tumposky, a Boston criminal defense lawyer who has been following the case.
“If the judge increased the sentence because he refused to accept responsibility, I think that’s wrong,” he said. “A defendant should never be punished for asserting his constitutional right against self-incrimination, even after a guilty verdict.”
Toni Troop, a spokeswoman for Jane Doe, a statewide coalition that advocates for victims of domestic violence, said that the court sent a clear message to offenders that they will be held accountable.
“The truth is that too often victims do not get this kind of justice in domestic violence cases,” she said. “The sentence should be the norm, not the exception.”
The victim, Katherine Gonzalves, testified that on July 8, 2012, Henriquez picked her up in Arlington. They began kissing in the car, but when Gonzalves, who was 23 at the time, told Henriquez she wanted to go back inside her mother’s house, he began yelling at her, she testified. The argument became violent, Gonzalves testified, adding that she began to use her cellphone to take pictures of Henriquez threatening her.
She said Henriquez grabbed her cellphone, then drove her to Boston, where she jumped out of the car and got help from Boston and Northeastern University police.
Prosecutors showed the jury photos of Gonzalves’s body, which was covered in bruises.
“I remember being back-handed; I remember being held down; I remember being punched,” Gonzalves said during her testimony.
Soriano-Mills tried to portray Gonzalves as an embittered woman whose accusations were motivated by anger over Henriquez’s refusal to make their relationship more serious. She also said that Gonzalves changed her story repeatedly.
“I don’t think the witness was credible at all,” Soriano-Mills told reporters. Henriquez “continues to deny what happened, and it appears that even the jury didn’t believe Ms. Gonzalves on a lot of the stories she told that night.”
The jury said prosecutors did not prove that Henriquez choked Gonzalves and punched her face.
Still, Rick Brody, a Boston-based lawyer who helped Gonzalves file a restraining order against Henriquez, said his client feels vindicated.
“It’s been an ordeal for her,” Brody said. “The case has been less about him than it has been about her. . . . From day one, she has always told the same story.”
Gonzalves is now involved in a program that helps victims of domestic violence relocate and find resources, Brody said.
Gonzalves was not in court for the verdict and did not give a statement to the court before sentencing, an opportunity given to all victims of a crime.
“She was done,” Brody said. “She had said her piece.”
Henriquez was elected in 2010. Since his arrest, he has remained active, stumping for mayoral candidates and Tweeting about campaign events.
With his conviction, he becomes the latest in a string of Democratic lawmakers convicted of crimes in recent years. Since 2010, when Anthony D. Galluccio, then a senator from Cambridge was jailed after he was involved in a hit-and-run accident, the State House has been beset by a series of convictions.
J. James Marzilli Jr., then a senator from Arlington, was convicted in 2011 of accosting a woman; former senator Dianne Wilkerson of Boston was sent to federal prison in 2011 for taking bribes; and former House speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi is serving an eight-year prison sentence after being convicted of conspiracy, fraud, and extortion in 2011.
After the verdict, Republican lawmakers called for Henriquez’s resignation. Democrats were initially more muted in their response, with few eager to comment on his conviction. But by the end of the afternoon, Governor Deval Patrick released a statement stating that Henriquez should resign.
Speaking to reporters outside his office, DeLeo said he did not have a timeline for how long it might take to oust Henriquez, but he said that if the lawmaker refuses to resign, the decision to oust him would eventually come to a vote of the full House.
“I would call upon him again, based upon the seriousness of these convictions, that, instead of going through that process, that he would consider resigning from the House,” DeLeo said.
In Dorchester, Henriquez’s constituents expressed shock.
“I never would have expected to hear something like this about him,” said Kevin Lilly, a 22-year-old political science student who had hoped to work as a summer intern in Henriquez’s office.
“To see a young, upcoming leader caught up in something like this is really stunning and disappointing,” Lilly said.