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State Ethics Commission clears Suffolk District Attorney Rachael Rollins in alleged road rage incident

Finding removes a possible hurdle to Rollins’ appointment as the state’s next US Attorney

Suffolk District Attorney Rachael Rollins.
Suffolk District Attorney Rachael Rollins.Nancy Lane/Pool

The state Ethics Commission has dropped its investigation into the alleged Christmas Eve road rage incident involving Suffolk District Attorney Rachael Rollins, telling the woman who filed the complaint that after “a careful review” the office has determined that “the matter doesn’t warrant further action by this office.”

“Please be assured that we take all matters presented to us seriously,” wrote special investigator Paul Murray to Katie Lawson of Dorchester. “We appreciate your concern and we thank you for bringing this matter to our attention.”

Ronald Sullivan, a private lawyer who represented Rollins in the investigations, said in a statement that the commission’s finding fully vindicated Rollins:

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“This few-second traffic encounter has been thoroughly reviewed and not a single criminal, civil rights, or ethical violation occurred. The District Attorney is not surprised by these outcomes, and sincerely hopes we can all return to the far more pressing matters facing the Commonwealth.”

Attorney General Maura Healey referred the matter to the Ethics Commission last month after she concluded that Rollins committed no civil rights violations or crimes in the incident in which Lawson alleged that Rollins threatened her while exiting the South Bay Center mall.

Lawson, who originally filed a complaint with the Boston police and then the attorney general’s office in late December, said she was angry that her story has been discounted now by two agencies.

“Everyone is scared of her,” said Lawson, referring to Rollins. “I told (the investigator), ‘You’re supposed to work for the public. You should be disgusted. You let her get away with it. You should be embarrassed.’”

In her complaint, Lawson alleged that Rollins threatened her, and inappropriately flashed her blue lights and activated her siren, as they were both trying to exit the shopping center on the afternoon of Dec. 24.

“I had an encounter with the Suffolk County DA Rollins, one I would say was very disturbing,” wrote Lawson in her complaint.

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At one point, Lawson said that Rollins moved her car a few inches away from her vehicle and threatened to give her a ticket before activating her blue lights and siren and driving off.

Rollins has denied threatening the woman, activating her lights, or running a red light. She said Lawson was driving the wrong way and she thought she would hit her.

After Healey cleared Rollins, Lawson sent the Ethics Commission a list of ways she believed Rollins violated the state’s conflict of interest laws — by flashing her blue lights in her taxpayer funded SUV and using her position to allegedly threaten Lawson.

“I am willing to take a lie detector test,” she said.

Murray, the Ethics Commission investigator, said in his letter that he could not tell Lawson any details about the investigaiton.

“Due to confidentiality restrictions under the conflict of interest law, we are unable to advise you on any actions we have taken regarding the concerns you presented,” Murray wrote. “Your complaint will remain on file at this office.

The end of the Ethics Commission case removes a potential obstacle from Rollins’ bid to become the next US attorney for the district of Massachusetts. She has been on the short list of candidates to succeed Andrew Lelling, who resigned last month. The other finalists are Jennifer Serafyn, the chief of the civil rights unit in Boston, where she works on civil matters, and Deepika Bains Shukla, who heads the US attorney’s office in Springfield.

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Brian Kelly, a former assistant US attorney and a partner at Nixon Peabody, said being cleared in these two investigations will undoubtedly help Rollins’ chances of becoming the next US attorney.

“It will strengthen her candidacy to get these two matters behind her,” he said. “The Department of Justice will no doubt view that favorably.”

It’s unclear exactly where in the highly secretive US attorney selection process the new administration is.

The next step is for the three finalists to be interviewed in Washington. So far that has not happened, according to two people with knowledge of the process. In the past, interviews have happened around April.

It can take months after that before the nominee is named, according to people who have been involved in the process. The candidate must then be confirmed by the US Senate.

Neither Healey nor the Ethics Commission would comment on the investigator’s findings.







Andrea Estes can be reached at andrea.estes@globe.com.