By Matt Murphy
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
STATE HOUSE, BOSTON -- The Massachusetts House voted 146-5 Thursday to expel Rep. Carlos Henriquez in connection with his Jan. 15 conviction on two assault and battery charges.
The vote followed more than 90 minutes of debate, including a speech from Henriquez, who maintained his innocence. The Dorchester Democrat is serving six months in jail for attacking a former female acquaintance in the back of a car in Arlington Heights in the early hours of July 8, 2012. He is appealing the conviction.
Under a previously adopted order, the representative's expulsion, the first in nearly 100 years in the House, means his 5th Suffolk District House seat is vacant, effective immediately. The House adjourned shortly after the expulsion vote and it's not clear whether House Speaker Robert DeLeo plans to order a special election.
In making the case for expulsion, Rep. Garrett Bradley (D-Hingham) said that Henriquez had violated a House rule regarding "independence of judgment" and said that since he's incarcerated Henriquez is "unable to fulfill his constitutional duties." Bradley added, "He's being paid to serve his criminal sentence."
Reps. Russell Holmes, Gloria Fox, Benjamin Swan, Carl Sciortino and Denise Provost voted against expulsion.
Henriquez, who was not handcuffed as he took the podium, departed the chamber before the vote. He continued to assert his innocence and responded to calls for his resignation by saying, "An innocent man does not quit."
"The truth is I never touched my accuser in any way at any time that would result in harm or injury," Henriquez said.
The House rejected an amendment offered by Rep. Russell Holmes 143-10 that would have reduced his punishment to censure. Holmes argued that Henriquez deserved to be punished and said he supported calls for his resignation, but questioned whether the rule used as a rationale to expel Henriquez adequately fit his case.
Among those who voted to censure Henriquez were Reps. Holmes, Mary Keefe, Benjamin Swan, Denise Provost, Byron Rushing, Carl Sciortino, John Rogers, Angelo Scaccia, Gloria Fox and Elizabeth Malia.
A number of House members described the vote as one of the most difficult they've had to take.
"Sometimes as legislators we must act with heavy hearts, but we must act," said Rep. David Nangle, a Lowell Democrat and Ethics Committee vice-chair who led that panel's investigation into the case.
"But we cannot lose sight of the fact that there is a victim involved," Nangle said, later adding that he was "mortified" by the photos he reviewed of the assault victim's bruising.
Veteran Rep. Christopher Fallon, a Malden Democrat, said the debate features some of the most intelligent and eloquent arguments he had heard during his tenure in the House. Raising his voice, he said the House had "no choice" but to expel Henriquez.
"This body is legally, legislatively and morally responsible to show to this Commonwealth that we that make the laws will not allow anything above a zero tolerance when it comes to abuse against women," Fallon said.