fb-pixel‘It was you!’ Traffic spat turned police coverup leads to questions for DA Hayden - The Boston Globe Skip to main content

‘It was you!’ Traffic spat turned police coverup leads to questions for DA Hayden

Jason Leonor said a Transit Police officer pulled a gun on him during a traffic spat last year. One officer has been fired for covering up the matter, and the stalled prosecution of the case has created controversy around Suffolk District Attorney Kevin Hayden's office.Suzanne Kreiter/Globe Staff

Jason Leonor should have felt relief when the police cars pulled up behind him in Mattapan. After all, he was the one who called 911. Instead, he felt a swirl of confusion and dread. “Something isn’t right,” he thought.

The 33-year-old Hispanic Black man had just told a 911 operator that a white man driving a green Honda had pulled a gun on him during a traffic dispute. But these Transit Police cars had shown up before the operator had dispatched anyone.

“Can you stay on the phone with me?” Leonor asked the operator that afternoon in April 2021, as he eyed the officers in his rearview mirror. It would prove to be a critical request: No one might have believed his story if the 911 call, reviewed by the Globe, hadn’t captured what happened next.

Advertisement



An officer collected Leonor’s license and registration and walked back to his car. A few seconds passed. Then, the 911 tape captured the moment that a different officer, Transit Police Officer Jacob Green, walked up to Leonor’s car window. Green was now in full uniform, but Leonor recognized the face of the man in the green Honda.

“It was you!?” Leonor exclaimed, his voice half-yelp, half-question. “Why’d you pull out a gun on me?!”

This was the start of a coverup, happening in real time.

Green, a 22-year veteran of the Transit Police Department, went on to write Leonor a ticket for a marked lanes violation. He returned to the station and wrote two police reports, obtained by the Globe, saying that when Leonor initially approached his car he had grabbed his gun but kept it on his lap. And within about two hours of the incident, he started calling and texting another Transit Police officer, Kevin Davis, who then came forward to claim he witnessed the whole thing from his own car while off-duty.

Advertisement



The chain of events seemed unbelievable, at least in the eyes of the Suffolk district attorney’s office, which, headed in spring 2021 by Rachael Rollins, launched an investigation. Transit Police officials themselves found the incident troubling and had brought the matter to Rollins’s attention. In short order, her office tapped a prosecutor from the Special Prosecutions Unit to oversee the case, and a Transit Police investigator obtained a search warrant for Green’s and Davis’s phones. Police and prosecutors sought evidence to support charges including misleading a police investigation, filing a false report, and assault with a dangerous weapon, according to the warrant.

But then Rollins left the prosecutor’s office to become the US attorney for Massachusetts early this year and attorney Kevin Hayden was appointed by Governor Charlie Baker to finish out her term.

Under Hayden, the office seemed far less eager to pursue the case.

And now a Globe investigation into the incident has sparked a swirling controversy, with fingers pointed in all directions, and accusations of deception and lies lobbed back and forth among attorneys, police, and prosecutors.

Amid questions in recent days from Globe reporters, Hayden’s office assigned a new prosecutor to the case and offered a series of shifting and contradictory explanations for his office’s handling of the matter.

Hayden, who is running for election in a Sept. 6 primary, said he would return $225 in political donations made to his campaign by Green and Green’s attorney, Robert Griffin. Those contributions were made, records show, days after Griffin said he was told explicitly by Hayden’s top deputy that the office wouldn’t be pursuing charges.

Advertisement



Green, meanwhile, filed resignation papers.

Today, the matter remains murkier than ever, with Hayden’s office locked in a standoff with Transit Police and Griffin.

Hayden said in a statement that he inherited the Green case when he took office. “No charges were filed by the prior administration,” the statement said, adding that the “Green case remains open.”

Transit Police Superintendent Richard Sullivan said that his department believes the case warrants prosecution. Asked whether he believed Hayden’s office should handle it, he demurred. “No comment,” he said.

“The incorrigible criminal actions we allege Green and Davis perpetrated on the victim, and to a larger extent the citizens of the Commonwealth, are not representative of the men and women of the Transit Police Department who day in and day out serve our riding public with honor, integrity and compassion,” Sullivan said in a statement.

Leonor still wants Green to face charges. He says he’s traumatized, even starting to lose patches of hair. He worries that nothing will ever be done to hold Green to account.

“I’m running out of hope,” he said.


Prosecuting a fellow law enforcement officer can be a tightrope walk for district attorneys, whose offices work intimately with police. But when Rollins took office in 2019, her administration began to routinely cast a critical eye on the actions of law enforcement.

Advertisement



After the governor appointed Hayden to finish out Rollins’s term, Hayden suggested little would change on that score. “We have no concerns about engaging in the appropriate scrutiny of both police departments and police officers where there are allegations of misconduct,” he told the Globe in an April interview.

Behind the scenes, Hayden ushered in changes, hiring as his first assistant Kevin Mullen, a former prosecutor and a defense attorney who has represented troubled law enforcement officers and is the nephew of a retired Boston police superintendent.

The DA’s Special Prosecutions Unit, which often is charged with prosecuting law enforcement officials, lost nearly all its staff in the transition. Its three prosecutors left this spring, and Hayden has not yet filled those positions.

Hayden said the departures were due to attrition, saying the prosecutors simply left the office for other jobs.

“These departures are in no way a reflection of the office’s handling of cases involving law enforcement officers,” Hayden said in a statement.

The district attorney’s office has other law enforcement cases left pending from Rollins’s tenure. Hayden’s administration confirmed it has open investigations into a Boston police captain and another officer, both accused of excessive use of force.

Hayden, who declined to be interviewed for this story, said in a statement that his office “has not ended any investigations of police misconduct cases inherited from the prior administration.” Through a spokesman, Mullen declined to be interviewed.

Suffolk District Attorney Kevin Hayden took over the office when Rachael Rollins became the US attorney for Massachusetts. Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

The case that kicked off the current controversy began at around 3 p.m. on April 11, 2021.

Advertisement



Jason Leonor was driving on Blue Hills Parkway in Milton headed toward Mattapan, coming home from a memorial service for his younger brother, who died suddenly in his sleep at 29. The car in front of him was driving slowly, he said, so he passed on the left, then returned to his original lane of travel. When he looked in his rearview mirror at the next red light, he saw the other driver taking a photograph or video through his windshield. Leonor got out of his vehicle and approached the driver.

Leonor said he knows he should have stayed in his own car. But, he said, he has a large following on social media, and he was worried about what the driver behind him was going to do with the photo.

When Leonor got close to the other car, he asked the man twice why he was taking photos. The driver, he said, rolled down his window and pointed a handgun at him.

“Get the [expletive] back!” the driver shouted, as Leonor recalls it. Leonor complied, ran back to his car, and called 911. “A guy pulled a gun on me!” he told the operator as soon as the line picked up. “He’s in a car, he’s right behind me!”

Leonor didn’t know it, but the driver was off-duty transit officer Green, in his personal vehicle and wearing a sweat shirt over his uniform, according to a search warrant affidavit obtained by the Globe.

In reports Green wrote after the incident, he described Leonor’s driving as “unsafe” and said Leonor almost caused an accident. Green said he took a photo of Leonor’s car, and then saw Leonor open his car door “violently.” Leonor “charged at my vehicle … screaming at me,” he wrote.

“I was in fear of an imminent attack,” Green wrote. “I removed my firearm from my off duty holster and held it on my lap.” He said he did not identify himself as a police officer.

After the initial encounter, both men continued driving toward Mattapan. Green radioed another officer to pull Leonor over, according to the search warrant affidavit, then, back in uniform, walked to Leonor’s driver’s side window. Despite Green’s allegation that Leonor drove dangerously and accosted him in traffic, Green cited him only for a marked lanes violation — a citation that was ultimately thrown out.

On the 911 recording reviewed by the Globe, Leonor can be heard protesting. Green’s voice is not audible on the recording.

“You did pull it out! It wasn’t even in your holster, sir, you pulled it out!” Leonor says. “Just because he’s an officer it’s my word against his. It’s not right.”

Back at the police station, Green’s own supervisors were skeptical of his version of events.

According to the search warrant affidavit by Transit Police, cellphone records show that about two hours after Green and Leonor’s encounter, Green called Davis, his friend in the department. Shortly afterward, Davis produced his own report, in which he claimed to have watched the entire interaction between Green and Leonor from his own car, when he was also off-duty.

Davis said in his statement that he thought Leonor was going to assault Green, according to the affidavit. But instead of getting out of his car to help, Davis said, he stayed inside his car to act as “a witness.”

Transit Police officials fired Davis for his role in the incident, saying in the termination announcement, “nothing can be more dangerous to our society or more destructive to TPD than to have a police officer conspire to coverup what may be criminal activity by another officer.” Davis is also under investigation by the DA’s office for his role in the matter.

A spokeswoman for the US attorney’s office said that Rollins declined to comment. But Rollins, in a Twitter post Friday in response to news of federal charges filed against Louisville officers in the Breonna Taylor case, said that when district attorneys fail to prosecute police accused of wrongdoing “it erodes the public trust.”

Green has spent the last 14 months on paid leave. In early August, Green formally notified the department of his intent to resign in September. Attorneys for both Green and Davis declined to comment about the facts of the case itself.

But about the prosecution of the coverup, stories abound.

Transit Police officials say the case was headed toward prosecution, with a grand jury planned for April, but that Hayden’s office scuttled the case without explanation and never returned their phone calls.

The attorneys for the accused transit officers say they were told explicitly in April by Hayden’s top deputy, Mullen, that the case was over and done with — Griffin filed a sworn affidavit in Boston Municipal Court saying as much.

But Hayden’s office initially said none of that ever happened at all, that the case was never anything but open, and that Griffin’s affidavit is “not true” — an accusation that, if proven, could get Griffin disbarred. Hayden’s office said it was “determining appropriate steps to take with regard to this matter. We take very seriously any act by a member of the bar — whether by a prosecutor, a defense attorney or any other attorney — that calls into question the integrity of legal proceedings.”

Griffin, told by the Globe that Hayden’s office was challenging his affidavit, stuck by his account and provided further details.

“Kevin Mullen’s exact words were, ‘I have no appetite to prosecute this case,’” said Griffin. “I’m not going to walk in and file an affidavit in court that I know it has false information in it. It’s ridiculous. I could get disbarred for that.”

Griffin shared with the Globe text messages he exchanged with Mullen; a Globe review found they support his version of events. Davis’s attorney, Anthony Riccio, said Griffin told him about his conversation with Mullen back in April. Riccio said he had his own conversation with Mullen on April 29 in which Mullen told him his client was unlikely to be prosecuted, and shared an e-mail he wrote in May to another attorney describing that conversation.

In response to questions from the Globe, Hayden’s office gave three different responses on this point. Hayden’s spokesman first said that Mullen never told Griffin that Green was not going to be charged, and that Griffin’s affidavit was untrue.

When told by the Globe that Griffin stood by his account, Hayden’s office amended its response to say Griffin had correctly recounted Mullen’s literal words, but misunderstood their meaning. Mullen was discussing a jurisdictional issue, not case merit, Hayden’s office said. The issue, he said, was whether the case should be prosecuted in Suffolk or Norfolk Country.

Asked about Hayden’s new version of events, Griffin was succinct. “That’s bullshit,” he said. “I understood exactly what they were saying.”

Later, Hayden’s office sent a third update, saying a clerical mishap led to an omission in its original set of answers: The office meant to say its general counsel had spoken to Griffin and Mullen and determined Griffin misunderstood Mullen.

Griffin called the latest amendment “pure spin, and dishonest.”

“I’ve known Kevin Hayden for 25 years,” Griffin told the Globe. “I was his supervisor when I was in the DA’s office. We were friends. As I was with Mullen.”

Griffin and Riccio both said they were contacted by Hayden’s office a few weeks ago, out of the blue, and were advised that a prosecutor was being assigned to review the case. Late last month, just a few hours after the Globe began asking questions about the case, Hayden’s office assigned yet another new prosecutor to the case, according to a document reviewed by the Globe.

Hayden’s office said the decision to assign a new prosecutor was made in early July, and that the prosecutor was assigned the day before the Globe sent its questions.

Riccio said the moves make no sense. “The district attorney’s office seems to be flip-flopping a lot,” said Riccio. “Representations have been made and now it seems that they are backtracking.”

And finally, there is the issue of the money.

Both Griffin and Green donated to Hayden’s campaign. Griffin gave $100 on April 7, and Green gave $125 on April 20, days after Mullen allegedly signaled that he had no desire to prosecute. Griffin said his donation had nothing to do with the Green case — he has long been a supporter of Hayden, he said, and attended a fund-raiser for him just a few weeks ago. Green’s lawyer did not make him available for comment.

On Wednesday, after the Globe asked Hayden’s campaign about the donations, a representative for Hayden said his campaign had moved to return both Griffin’s and Green’s donations, calling them a “potential conflict of interest.” The representative said Hayden did not solicit the donations, and said the campaign had no record of any communication between Hayden and Griffin or Green about the donations.

But Griffin said that wasn’t true. “Kevin Hayden solicited that donation himself, from me,” said Griffin. “He asked me for financial help. I didn’t make that on my own. He called me.”

Hayden’s campaign then said Hayden may have forgotten making the call.


While Hayden’s office, the Transit Police, and the officers’ attorneys try to determine what will become of the case, Leonor replays his encounter with Green over and over in his mind. When he realized the officer at his car window was the same man he saw point the gun at him, all Leonor wanted was to disappear. The feeling hasn’t left him.

“I’m scared of this world,” he said in a recent interview inside his apartment, where he spends almost all of his time.

Leonor isn’t looking for a lawsuit or money. He wants justice. He wants to know if Green has treated any other people this way.

Leonor never used to be afraid of police. He knew police corruption was real, but he didn’t think it happened in Boston. And if the justice system doesn’t, in the end, help him, he at least wants to warn people.

“I want to be heard,” he said. “I want people to know that it is happening in Boston. ... It’s not only happening on TV, on social media. It’s happening right where we live.”


Here is a timeline of the events that took place during the case:

April 11, 2021 – Officer Jacob Green was involved in a traffic incident while driving to work in which he brandished his gun. Green and a colleague, Kevin Davis, then allegedly tried to cover it up.

July 30, 2021 – Transit police, working with former Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins’ administration, applied for a warrant to search the phones of Green and Davis.

January 10, 2022 – Rollins becomes the US Attorney for Massachusetts. Governor Baker appoints Kevin R. Hayden to complete Rollins’ term. One of Hayden’s first actions was to appoint Kevin R. Mullen as his first assistant district attorney.

April 5, 2022 – Green’s lawyer, Robert Griffin, met with Mullen, who Griffin said told him that the DA’s office would not be pursuing charges against Green, according to a sworn affidavit filed two months later.

April 7, 2022 – Griffin donated $100 to Hayden’s election campaign, records show.

April 20, 2022 – Officer Green donated $125 to Hayden’s election campaign, records show.

April 29, 2022 – Davis’ lawyer, Anthony Riccio, said he spoke to Mullen and Mullen told him that Davis was unlikely to be prosecuted.

June 7, 2022 – Griffin filed a sworn affidavit asking for Green’s cellphone back. Griffin wrote in the affidavit that Green was no longer under investigation by the district attorney and cited his April conversation with Mullen.

June 14, 2022 – Transit police officials met with Mullen, who police officials said was unequivocal that no decision had been made in Green’s case. Mullen denied telling Green’s lawyer that the case was being dropped.


Evan Allen can be reached at evan.allen@globe.com. Follow her @evanmallen. Andrew Ryan can be reached at andrew.ryan@globe.com Follow him @globeandrewryan.