After his conviction this week for assault and battery, state Representative Carlos Henriquez should do both himself and the Fifth Suffolk District a favor and resign from the Legislature. With good reason, Governor Deval Patrick, House Speaker Robert DeLeo, and Boston Mayor Martin Walsh have all urged Henriquez to leave, and those calls will only intensify.
On Wednesday, a Middlesex jury found Henriquez, 37, guilty on two charges related to a July 2012 incident. While acquitting Henriquez on charges of larceny and witness intimidation, the jury nonetheless found that the Dorchester state representative had held down and punched an Arlington woman with whom he was having a relationship. Cambridge District Court Judge Michele Hogan sentenced Henriquez to two and a half years in the House of Correction, with six months to be served and the remainder spent on probation. Henriquez, who hails from a politically prominent Boston family, was led out of court in handcuffs.
Domestic battering can take many forms. And certainly there were ambiguous aspects to this crime. But Judge Hogan cut through the fog with the following admonishment to Henriquez: “When a woman tells you she doesn’t want to have sex, that means she does not want to have sex,’’ said Hogan. “You don’t hit her. You don’t punch her.’’ While voters might reasonably overlook some misdemeanor convictions, the nature of domestic and dating violence is well known. The public accurately perceives it as a particularly odious form of assault — and one that’s deeply unworthy of an elected public official.
Henriquez’s district includes some of the needier sections of Roxbury and Dorchester. A good quality of life for residents there can depend on grants and program support from nonprofit foundations and governmental agencies. It is essential that elected officials from the district enjoy the confidence and respect of their colleagues. Henriquez, it’s probably safe to say, no longer does.
Expelling a state legislator who declines to leave voluntarily isn’t easy. The first step would be to refer the matter to the House Ethics Committee, which deliberates privately. Only then is the matter referred to the full House for a vote. The district would be better served with a speedy special election to replace Henriquez than a drawn-out legislative process. Walsh — a former state representative who previously served as head of the House Ethics Committee, and who had Henriquez’s enthusiastic support during the mayoral race — should keep pressing his ex-colleague to resign.
As a defendant, Henriquez has every right to appeal his conviction. But that doesn’t mean he should cling to his elected office until he exhausts every last legal avenue. Should the jury’s decision be overturned in the future, Henriquez could seek a path back into public life. In the meantime, he should focus on his personal and legal problems and allow his constituents to select a new representative.