For Convicted Rep, a Case Can Be Made for Courting Expulsion from the House

Friday, January 17, 2014

The Powers That Be, including the Governor, Speaker of the House, Mayor of Boston and the Boston Globe, are urging Carlos Henriquez to resign from the Massachusetts House.  I don’t think he will.

A second-term rep from Dorchester, Henriquez was found guilty Wednesday on two counts of assault and battery on a young woman he had a romantic/sexual interest in.  Henriquez was found innocent of three other charges in the case, which stems from an encounter in a car parked on a quiet street in Arlington late one summer night in 2012.

From the outset, Henriquez, 37, has vigorously asserted his innocence.  He’s holding to that position now that he’s begun serving a six-month sentence in the house of correction.

“None of this happened,” declared Stephanie Soriano-Mills, Henriquez’s lawyer, soon after her client was led from the courtroom in cuffs.  The verdict will absolutely be appealed, she said.

Henriquez’s accuser took the witness stand, testified in detail as to what Henriquez did in that car, withstood a scorching cross-examination by Atty. Soriano-Mills, and convinced the jury that she had, in fact, been assaulted.  She alone deserves our compassion at this point.

After he was arrested in July, 2012, Henriquez said in a formal statement:

“Putting my hands on a woman is contradictory to my upbringing and my own morals.  As both a community activist prior to getting elected and as an elected official, I have spoken with hundreds of youth and adults about the problem of violence against women.  I have worked tirelessly with multiple agencies and organizations who champion against the issue of domestic violence.  It is a mission I am committed to in my personal and public life.”

The State House News Service reported that, when Judge Michele Hogan sentenced Henriquez on Wednesday, she told him:

“You’re a successful, charismatic young man.  You’re a pillar in the community.  People admire you.  They voted for you.  They trust you.  They trust your judgment.  You’re a leader in that community and beyond.

“There’s much too much domestic violence in this country, in this community.  A woman and her word are to be respected.  When a woman tells you she does not want to have sex, that means, ‘ I do not want to have sex.’  And after she says that you don’t hit her, you don’t punch her, you don’t take her on a ride she doesn’t want to go on.”

The House of Representatives has the legal authority to expel Henriquez if he does not resign.  There’s a formal process for the House to follow in a case like this.  It must be initiated by the House Ethics Committee, which was chaired until very recently by Boston’s new mayor, Marty Walsh, a former legislator.  The process would culminate with a vote on expulsion by the entire body. 

It’s hard to see how Henriquez could win such a vote.  Who in the House is crazy enough to vote for a convicted batterer?

Most reps would obviously prefer not to have to deal with this because expulsion  would keep the case in the public eye.  There could be Henriquez stories in the media for weeks.  He can spare his colleagues that trouble by falling on his sword.

If you are sitting in a jail cell in Billerica, though, how much can you worry about your co-workers who are free to go about their lives?  And do you want to take the chance of under-cutting your claim of total innocence, even a bit, by resigning?  Then there’s the potential that the expulsion proceedings could become a high-profile forum to re-argue your innocence.

That’s why I think Henriquez will wait to be expelled.

Getting thrown out of the House will not add much to the embarrassment he’s already suffered.  Should he be exonerated on appeal, he can claim he was doubly victimized: first by the court system, then by the legislative system.

It’s not inconceivable that Henriquez, now justifiably scorned as a woman abuser, could one day become an object of sympathy.  The day could even come when sympathy helps put him back in the legislature.  Stranger things have happened in Massachusetts politics.

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