He was led through a basement door, hands cuffed and chained to his waist, an armed sheriff’s deputy clutching his elbow. Dressed in a dark blazer and slacks, he looked straight ahead, unsmiling, as he was whisked into a closed-door session of the House Ethics Committee.
Carlos Henriquez returned to the State House Friday, still serving as a state representative but newly minted as an inmate in the Middlesex County House of Correction. The bizarre spectacle — a duly elected state lawmaker escorted through the marble halls of the House as a convict — was also an act of defiance.
Henriquez has refused calls from the governor, the House speaker, and the mayor to resign. He had been ordered by the House to appear before the Ethics Committee as the first step in the process of expelling him.
On Friday, he ignored shouted questions from reporters who asked him if he would step down.
The 37-year-old Dorchester Democrat spent about an hour inside a windowless hearing room with members of the ethics panel, as state troopers guarded the doors and blue velvet ropes kept the press at a distance in the hallway outside. The committee’s proceedings are secret, so it is unclear what he said or what the committee members asked him. However, House rules dictate that the committee convene before the full House can take an expulsion vote.
On Friday, the nine members of the panel either declined to comment or did not return phone calls.
Henriquez was convicted last week of holding down a woman and punching her in the chest when she refused to have sex with him. After his closed-door appearance before the Ethics Committee Friday, he was led silently past reporters and returned to jail, where he is serving a six-month sentence for two misdemeanor counts of assault and battery.
No lawmaker has entered the State House in handcuffs in decades, if ever, though other convicted lawmakers have returned to face colleagues.
In 1977, Senate majority leader Joseph DiCarlo bucked a Senate effort to remove him from office. Convicted of extorting $40,000 from a consulting firm overseeing construction of the University of Massachusetts Boston campus, DiCarlo and another senator were sentenced to a year in jail.
But their sentences were deferred pending appeals, allowing DiCarlo to take to the floor of the Senate and deliver an angry, 17-minute speech in which he proclaimed his innocence.
According to the House clerk’s office, the House last expelled one of its members in 1906, when Frank J. Gethro , a Boston Democrat, was pushed out amid bribery charges.
Henriquez appears to be trying to mount a defense against efforts to expel him by pointing out that he has filed an appeal of his case and is questioning his conviction by an all-white jury.
At the State House Friday, Henriquez’s lawyer, Stephanie Soriano-Mills, told reporters that Henriquez should have been accorded a more diverse jury.
“A jury of your peers generally reflects a vast range of people of different cultures, nationalities, races, and that didn’t happen, per se, in this case,” said Soriano-Mills.
She said Henriquez has not decided whether to relinquish the seat he has held since 2011.
She also lashed out at the victim of the assault.
“I think there was a real lack of credibility on behalf of the named witness, Katherine Gonzalves,” Soriano-Mills said. “She gave about six different variations of a story.”
Gonzalves’s lawyer, Richard E. Brody, said in a telephone interview that Soriano-Mills had numerous opportunities to challenge the makeup of the jury, but never did.
“What she’s unhappy with, apparently, is that they don’t believe her, or her client,” Brody said.
He also said Soriano-Mills failed to persuade the jury that Gonzalves lacked credibility.
“She beat that into the ground during the trial,” Brody said. “Obviously, the jury didn’t believe her, and they didn’t believe the defendant’s position.”
Middlesex District Attorney Marian T. Ryan also pushed back on Soriano-Mills’s arguments. “The defense fully participated in the jury selection process in this case and was afforded a fair opportunity to raise objections to the potential jurors,” Ryan said in a statement. “Prior to the beginning of the trial, the defense expressed contentment with the jury on the record. The defendant was then convicted based upon the evidence presented to the jury during a six-day trial.”
Speaker Robert A. DeLeo has said he wants to move quickly to expel Henriquez, but has also urged him to resign and avoid an ugly expulsion vote in the House. He declined to comment on Friday’s proceeding.
Governor Deval Patrick, and Mayor Martin J. Walsh, who served with Henriquez in the House, have also called on Henriquez to resign.
Support for the lawmaker may be eroding in his own base of power. In a letter dated Jan. 21, the cochairs of the Ward 15 Democratic committee, which covers much of Henriquez’s district, urged DeLeo to call for a special election, which would only be possible if Henriquez steps down or is expelled.
“This is an urgent time for district residents, as there are many pressing issues — crime, education, housing, jobs — that need to be addressed,” the letter said. “We are concerned that, for the entire year, the residents of the Fifth Suffolk will have no champion in the House to advocate for these concerns during critical policy and budget discussions and debates.”