Legal analysts say that former state representative Carlos Henriquez’s sentence of six months in jail for assault and battery on a woman he was dating was harsh, but not unheard of, as he faced a range of outcomes from probation to even more time in prison.
Henriquez, 37, became the first representative expelled from the Massachusetts House in 98 years on Thursday
He has maintained his innocence and had requested a leave of absence from the House. noting he could be freed on parole as soon as April.
He also said he will appeal his conviction, and his lawyer called his sentence extreme and longer than comparable cases, considering he has no criminal record.
Legal analysts said, however, that Henriquez has little grounds for an appeal without citing extreme error in the case. They also said his sentence fell well within a guideline grid that was established for the trial court system. That grid recommended a sentence of zero to 12 months in jail for his crimes, depending on the circumstances, legal analysts said.
State judges are not required to follow the grid, and it is typically cited only by Superior Court judges. There was also no indication that Cambridge District Court Judge Michele Hogan cited or even analyzed the grid in handing out Henriquez’s sentence.
But the legal analysts said in interviews with the Globe Thursday that, while the sentence was among the more severe they have seen, it was not out of line.
“Judges can consider anything they want,” said Steven Sack, a veteran Boston defense lawyer who has handled similar cases.
While he saw the sentence as harsh, Sack said, “This sentence wouldn’t be way out of the range. . . . They can run the gamut.”
Derege Demissie — who with Sack cochairs Suffolk Lawyers for Justice Inc., a bar advocate program, agreed that “after a trial, where there is evidence of injury, domestic violence, it’s very likely that someone, even without a criminal record, could get anywhere from probation to a year.”
“The fact that it involves a public figure would not be helpful to the defendant,” he added.
Henriquez was convicted Jan. 15 of two misdemeanor counts of assault and battery for holding down a woman he was dating and punching her in the chest after she refused to have sex with him. He was acquitted of a third charge of assault and battery that alleged he hit the woman in the face and was also acquitted of larceny and witness intimidation, for allegedly taking the woman’s cellphone and threatening her.
The judge said at the time that she was considering the nature of the crime, as well as Henriquez’s refusal to accept any responsibility.
“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.”
The legal analysts questioned whether Hogan’s comments indicate that she had sentenced Henriquez for a sex crime, even though he was not charged with one. The analysts noted, however, that the judge had the discretion to hand out a sentence she thought was appropriate after listening to the evidence, including the victim’s testimony.
Toni Troop — a spokeswoman for Jane Doe, a statewide coalition that advocates for victims of domestic violence — called the sentence just.
“It is perfectly within the bounds of what the law calls for, and it sends an appropriate message of the seriousness of the crime and holding offenders accountable,” she said. “It’s a reasonable message, and it should be the standard.”
But Stephen J. Weymouth, a veteran Boston-based lawyer who has worked on similar cases, said the sentence was still extreme. He agreed that Hogan had the authority to hand out the term based on the evidence, but he questioned whether Henriquez was being punished for taking the case to trial.
“She listened to the facts, heard the facts, and maybe she didn’t like what she heard,” he said. “But I still think six months for this was harsh.”