High-profile friends of State Representative Carlos Henriquez were quick to rush to the side of the Dorchester lawmaker after his arrest over the weekend for allegedly choking and punching a 23-year-old woman. Some may be tempted to see this as a noble example of friends who appear in time of need. But it came across more like callousness toward victims of dating violence and domestic assault.
No one is certain yet what took place between Henriquez and the alleged victim. Boston City Councilor Tito Jackson, who went to the police station after Henriquez’s arrest, doesn’t know all the facts of this case. Neither do Boston School Committee member John Barros and Darnell Williams, head of the Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts, who showed the flag at Monday’s court appearance where Henriquez pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Even if they came for purely personal reasons, the presence of notable officials reflects on their organizational and political affiliations. Dating violence is a serious problem in both the city at large and in Boston high schools. And alleged victims deserve better than a reflexive response by elected officials.
Williams said his presence in court reflected both concern for a friend and his role as an observer for an organization devoted to the education, career development, and advancement of the region’s minority communities. In no way, he said, was it meant to be dismissive of the alleged victim.
But he can’t have it both ways. Contrast Williams’s position with the straightforward statement of House Speaker Robert DeLeo: “The allegations that have been raised are disturbing and troubling and should be taken very seriously. The matter is now being handled by the appropriate authorities, and that process will play out.’’
Even if they came for purely personal reasons, the presence of notable officials reflects on their organizational and political affiliations.
Shows of support in court by prominent individuals often backfire. Uniformed police officers, for example, are wont to pack the rows of a courthouse during the trial of a fellow officer. But the public is more likely to see this as an attempt at intimidation than a character reference.
Henriquez will have ample opportunity to mount a vigorous defense against the charges of domestic assault and battery and domestic kidnapping. His friends and colleagues in positions of public responsibility shouldn’t be part of the defense team. They would do better to suspend judgment and consider all of the aspects of this disturbing case.