An Everett city councilor pleaded not guilty to indecent assault and battery in Malden District Court on Thursday for allegedly slapping the behind of one of his female council colleagues — the latest in a series of ugly disputes among city leaders.
Councilor Jimmy Tri Le did not respond to requests for comment from the Globe. Channel 10 News showed him trying to hide his face and running from the camera outside the court.
A judge made the court documents private and the female city councilor told the Globe she did not want to be identified. However, she described to the Globe the incident that she said occurred after a Saint Patrick’s event inside a private club in Everett on March 11.
She and a state lawmaker were leaving the function hall for the bar when Le approached her and tried to give her kisses on both cheeks, as he often does in greeting, she said. Le grabbed her head and gave her a kiss on one cheek, she said. But she rebuffed the second kiss and pulled away, and as she turned away from him, he slapped her on the buttocks, she said.
State Representative Dan Ryan witnessed the interaction, she said.
Ryan did not respond to an interview request. But he corroborated her account in the police report, a copy of which was obtained by the Globe.
The two councilors had clashed publicly about a week and a half earlier during a February City Council meeting where the female councilor was heard calling Le an obscenity. She told the Globe that she did so because he had repeatedly tried to prevent her from speaking.
Le referenced that exchange in a text he sent her immediately after the Saint Patrick’s Day incident, saying that was for what she called him on camera, according to the police report.
Le also pointed to that exchange in an interview with police, the report shows, suggesting her claim might be politically motivated. The police officer asked him to leave politics out of it.
The rough-and-tumble city has been roiled by especially bruising political conflicts in recent months and a spate of sexual and racial allegations. City residents have been storming public meetings demanding the resignation of another city councilor, Anthony DiPierro, whose leaked messages exchanged with other city officials reveal him using racist memes and the N-word. Texts have been unearthed as evidence while the mayor and city clerk sue each other in Middlesex Superior Court over a real estate deal gone bad; the clerk alleges Mayor Carlo DeMaria extorted $97,000 from him. (The mayor denies the claims, saying he deserved the money.)
Meanwhile, the city clerk and Everett Public School Superintendent Priya Tahiliani have both gone to the FBI and said they found surveillance cameras in their offices. Tahiliani filed a complaint in January accusing the mayor of racial and gender discrimination. Her predecessor as superintendent, Frederick F. Foresteire, has yet to face trial on seven counts of indecent assault and battery by former school employees.
In the latest case involving Le, the female councilor said she decided to file a report to draw a line against such abuse.
“It is incredibly frustrating and sad that in this day and age women still have to justify how assault is not okay,” she said in a statement she also shared with other media. “Touching women inappropriately is not a joke, it is not business as usual, and it should not be normalized.”
According to the police report, the female councilor has told Le on more than one occasion that the kisses are unwelcome.
She is not the only one to have raised a complaint about him.
Everett Police have warned Le to stay away from two dry cleaning operations in the city after female workers alleged he was harassing them, police reports show.
In January, the owner of Sal’s Custom Dry Cleaners reported that Le had made two female employees feel uncomfortable over the past year, asking them for dates or hugs. They also alleged he made comments such as, “I am a councilman, I can’t get a discount?” the report said.
In February, police called Le to warn he was trespassing at Sal’s Custom Dry Cleaners and at a local tailor, where an employee alleged he made vulgar statements and that she was “fearful” of him, according to another report.
When interviewed, Le asked police “if these businesses were to come in front of his council, could he vote no as some sort of retaliation,” according to the police report. Le did not respond to requests for comment from the Globe.