State Representative Carlos Henriquez, facing removal from the Legislature after being convicted of assaulting a woman, said in a phone interview from jail that he has not decided whether he will resign, and maintains that he has not violated any House rules that would warrant his expulsion.
Even as an ethics commission weighs his fate, Henriquez, 37, pledged in his first interview since being convicted to continue serving his constituents from his cell.
“At this point, I have not made plans to resign. It’s something I spend much of each day thinking about,” Henriquez said in a wide-ranging telephone interview Friday evening.
Henriquez has, however, asked the House for a six-month leave of absence, which would allow him to hold onto his seat while he serves his jail term, according to a letter received by the House clerk on Friday. A House official said there is no provision in the House rules or under the Constitution that would allow lawmakers to grant such a request. The Boston Herald first reported the request in its Saturday edition.
The Dorchester Democrat was convicted last month on two misdemeanor assault counts of holding down and punching a then-23-year-old woman in 2012 after she refused to have sex with him.
The conviction has rocked state politics, with a parade of elected officials lining up to call for Henriquez to resign, and significant segments of his district — which includes parts of Dorchester and Roxbury — standing by the embattled legislator, decrying his sentence as a miscarriage of justice. Other critics say sympathy for him obscures the serious issue of domestic violence.
In the 30-minute Globe interview, Henriquez said he was overwhelmed by the support and love he has felt from friends, family members, and those who have stood by him during his incarceration. Still, he stressed, he understands the seriousness of the charges and conviction.
“While I maintain the truth of my innocence, I do want to recognize that . . . domestic violence is real and there are far too many women, men, and children who are real victims of violence in their household each and every day,” he said.
Henriquez called domestic violence “a cowardly, shameful act.”
“It sickens me to be associated with it,” he said. “The only comfort that I have is the fact that I get to live with the truth. And I know the truth — that I didn’t do it.”
Jurors acquitted Henriquez of several other charges in the case, including one related to allegations that he struck the victim in the face. His defense attorney, Stephanie Soriano-Mills, argued in court that Henriquez had no record of previous violence and should be given probation. The judge, however, determined the crimes merited jail time.
As a stone-faced Henriquez stood in the courtroom on Jan. 15, Cambridge District Judge Michele Hogan told him her sentence was partly influenced by 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.”
While Henriquez stopped short in the interview of saying he did not receive a fair trial, he said it was unjust for that to be a factor in his sentence, as he cannot be sorry for something he did not do.
“For me to show remorse would have been to admit guilt. And, to me, that’s the last thing I’m going to do,” he said.
Hogan sentenced Henriquez to 2½ years in a house of correction but ordered him to serve only six months of the sentence.
The sentence — which legal experts have characterized as relatively heavy for a first-time offender — as well as the fact that the jury cleared Henriquez of most of the charges he faced, has fueled a vocal set of supporters, especially in communities of color.
His conviction by what his attorney said was an all-white jury and his immediate imprisonment — rather than being granted a stay to allow him to get his affairs in order — stirred the distrust of the criminal justice system felt by many of Boston’s blacks and Latinos.
The embattled lawmaker has been twice summoned before the House Ethics Committee, public spectacles during which he was led in handcuffs into the same chambers where he has served as a representative since his 2010 election.
Henriquez would not discuss the pending committee investigation or his upcoming criminal appeal in any detail. He did say, however, that he thinks that he should be given a leave of absence to serve his sentence while his case is pending appeal. He said he believes his name will eventually be cleared — citing the fact that the jury did not convict on some counts.
“I’ve read the rules of the House more times than I can count,” he said. “I have not violated in the past or present any rules of the House.”
Henriquez, who spoke confidently during the interview, said that in coming weeks he plans to reach out directly to his constituents to tell them how he plans to move forward.
The representative insisted that he can continue to serve effectively while incarcerated, and said he has been speaking with his aides every day to make sure work continues to get done.
“The truth of the matter is we’re answering every single constituent call. So whether I’m there physically or not there, that level of service is the same,” Henriquez said. “This will be the first time in three years that I miss any votes at all; this will be the first time that I’m not personally pushing for budget amendments in the room, but I still plan on filing budget amendments.”
Henriquez said he has been reading a book a day since being incarcerated. Right now, he said, he is reading the writings of Nelson Mandela and meditating between visits and phone calls.
“I’ve been hearing the love from my family and friends and supporters,” he said. “The only discomfort is that I’ve lost my freedom.”