By Andy Metzger
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
STATE HOUSE, BOSTON -- Jailed on an assault and battery conviction and facing a likely expulsion from the House, Rep. Carlos Henriquez spoke out Wednesday, asserting his innocence and criticizing colleagues, the news media and those who have "devalued" and "disposed" of him.
"It is my opinion that if the community does not like the portrayal of me, men who look like me or of our community in the media, then they should stop supporting that media outlet with their dollars and viewing time," Henriquez wrote.
He said, "It is a fact that I was initially saddened by how quickly some members of my community devalued, discarded and disposed of me, as soon as the jury reached its verdict. What concerns me most is that if the community will do that to me, what chance do the poorer, less educated, or addicted black, Latino, white and Asian men and women have of returning home, needing a second chance to get back on their feet."
In a three-page statement posted to The Blackstonian website, Henriquez said none of the people who asked for him to resign had spoken to him personally and alleged that the "vast majority" haven't researched the facts.
Henriquez, 37, was convicted Jan. 15 by a jury of two counts of assault and battery and immediately sentenced to six months jail time for attacking then 23-year-old Katherine Gonzalves in the back of a rented car in Arlington Heights, in the early hours of July 8, 2012.
Some close to Henriquez have spent the hours before his likely expulsion from the House unsure how they will vote on the action and conflicted in their feelings about the man.
"It has been not only just emotionally difficult but also procedurally difficult because he is such a close friend of mine, and it still surprises me, the decisions he made on that unfortunate evening," Rep. Russell Holmes told the News Service after the Ethics Committee's recommendation Tuesday night to expel the Dorchester Democrat.
Holmes, who said he has discussed the situation with Henriquez in the lead-up to the trial, also said it is likely Henriquez will run for his seat this year.
"It seems clear that Representative Henriquez would look to be reelected," said Holmes. He said, "His mind would have to change for that not to be the case."
On Thursday, the House is scheduled to take a rare vote on expelling one of its members who is currently incarcerated in the House of Corrections in Billerica. The last expulsion was in 1916 when the House removed Rep. Harry Foster for allegedly accepting money from people interested in pending legislation.
"I have not determined my vote nor if I'm going to remark on Thursday," Holmes said during a phone interview Wednesday.
Holmes said he has "faith" in the jury system, but said many in the largely African American community that both he and Henriquez represent have doubts whether the all-white jury that convicted Henriquez in a Medford courthouse can be trusted to deliver an unbiased verdict.
"The all-white jury has raised significant doubt among some in our community about whether it can be fair," said Holmes, who said he agrees with a statement about the jury's verdict against Henriquez posted on The Blackstonian.
"It is my opinion that an all-white jury can raise doubts about fairness. It is also my opinion that a jury of all one race does not mean that it cannot be fair," Henriquez said in his statement. The Jury acquitted Henriquez on three different charges related to the same incident.
Henriquez, whose mother is an official at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, said he believes the charges he faced were "serious" even though they are misdemeanors.
Rep. Liz Malia, a Jamaica Plain Democrat whose district abuts Henriquez's district, said she knew him professionally as "pretty smart" and someone who showed up for meetings.
"I've never had any difficulties with him and I found him to be someone who's responsive," Malia told the News Service before the 20-page Ethics Committee report was released, saying she did not know how she would vote on potential action the House might take.
"It's a pretty sad circumstance no matter how you look at it and I don't know what the answer will be," said Malia, who is House chairwoman of the Committee on Mental Health and Substance Abuse where Henriquez is still technically a member.
"I'd really like to hear the debate and discussion," said Malia, who said the accusation of domestic violence "really troubles me."
The Ethics Committee unanimously recommended expulsion for Henriquez and House Speaker Robert DeLeo quickly announced he planned to vote in favor of the committee's recommendation.
In his statement, Henriquez said he believes domestic violence is "cowardly," and he maintained his innocence, saying in the 38 years of his parents' marriage he never witnessed domestic violence, and he has supported efforts to curb domestic violence.
Henriquez did not speak during his trial, or before his sentencing, and he did not answer specific questions from the Ethics Committee about his version of the events from the July 2012 evening.
Holmes said he doesn't believe a lawmaker should collect a salary while imprisoned and said he believes "you cannot serve your constituent and be in jail at the same time."
Holmes, who said Henriquez was one of his closest friends in the House, said he had discussed the issue with Henriquez in the lead-up to the trial and has not talked with him since the guilty verdict, with the understanding that he would likely be called to vote on some kind of action.
While Henriquez maintains he did not violate any House rules, which could trigger disciplinary action, the committee concluded he violated a rule by engaging in activities that conflict with or substantially impair his "independence of judgment."
"Representative Henriquez' obligation to serve six months in a house of correction substantially conflicts with and impairs his independence of judgment," the committee wrote in its report. "He himself conceded this point when he requested a six-month leave of absence from the House clerk."
Henriquez Statement: http://blackstonian.com/info/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Public-Statement-by-Carlos-Henriquez-.pdf
House Ethics Committee report: https://malegislature.gov/Bills/188/House/H3894