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OPINION

Will progressives stick with Ricardo Arroyo after sexual assault allegations?

To stick with Arroyo now, they have to believe not only that he’s innocent of these allegations, but that he knew nothing about them until asked by the Globe.

Suffolk County District Attorney candidate Ricardo Arroyo said he’s innocent of all the allegations — which he may be. But he also said he knew nothing about them — which is hard to believe, given his effort to contact one alleged victim.Erin Clark / Globe Staff

Does truth matter anymore? Boston City Councilor Ricardo Arroyo — a candidate for Suffolk district attorney — is the latest politician to test the theory that it doesn’t.

Arroyo is doubling down on something that is hard to believe— that until he was asked about it by the Globe, he knew nothing about an allegation that he sexually assaulted a high school classmate in 2005; or that two years later, a second teenage girl reported to police that she believed he may have raped her after she got inebriated at a party. Yet some five hours after a Globe interview about these allegations, he contacted the second alleged victim of a crime he insisted he knew nothing about. “Hey it’s been a long time! I need to speak with you can we talk?” he said via Facebook message, which the woman shared with the Globe. The woman also told the Globe Arroyo did not assault her.

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Arroyo says he’s innocent of all the allegations — which he may be. But he also says he knew nothing about them — which is hard to accept, given his effort to contact one alleged victim. As reported by the Globe, the two cases involving him were investigated separately by police and neither led to charges. But also, according to the Globe, “Police records explicitly state that a detective spoke to Arroyo and his attorney in the 2005 case. And a spokesman for Kevin Hayden, the current Suffolk district attorney, said Arroyo was contacted back then regarding both investigations.”

Arroyo is running against Hayden in the Sept. 6 primary for the county’s top law enforcement position. So yes, there’s a lot of politics to unpack here. In a statement in which he denies the allegations and knowing anything about them until a week ago, Arroyo also describes them as a political hit job. “Sadly, what has now become clear is that the current district attorney — or an official working on his behalf — just weeks before the election has selectively and illegally leaked incomplete information to the media,” he wrote. “This was clearly done to leave the false impression that I did something wrong.”

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I’m sure Hayden thinks the same thing about the Globe’s earlier reporting of his handling of a case involving two Transit Police officers, one of whom allegedly brandished a gun during an off-duty traffic dispute and then engaged the other in a cover-up. Hayden is accused of trying to bury an investigation into the matter. He denies that happened and said the case is open and always was. But his denials didn’t stop Arroyo and his supporters in Boston’s progressive community from calling upon him to resign.

Will Arroyo’s supporters believe his truth, when they didn’t believe Hayden’s? That’s what state Senator Lydia Edwards, a Hayden supporter, is asking. When she endorsed Hayden, the pushback from Arroyo backers was brutal. “The progressives ripped me apart,” said Edwards, whose election to the Senate as the first woman and first person of color from her district was celebrated as a victory for progressives. “They were saying he [Arroyo] was the only progressive in the race. It was hard. It was really mean.” She shared screenshots of tweets attacking her as a woman of color who harmed her community by endorsing Hayden.

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Now the progressive community, which embraced Arroyo as the candidate who stands for criminal justice reform, must decide how to respond to serious criminal allegations against him. After all, prominent Arroyo supporters like Senator Elizabeth Warren, US Representative Ayanna Pressley, and Boston Mayor Michelle Wu have also stood up against sexual misconduct. In 2017, Warren called for then-Senator Al Franken to resign over sexual misconduct allegations and a photo that showed him pretending to grope a sleeping woman. In a letter to President Biden, Pressley has called for justice for victims of sexual assault and shared her own story. Wu, the first woman and person of color to win election to the mayor’s office, also stood up for victims when she released the files on a former Boston police officer who pleaded guilty to sexual abuse charges.

To stick with Arroyo now, they have to believe not only that he’s innocent of these allegations, but that he knew nothing about them until asked by the Globe. They have to accept all of his truth, when some of it sounds unbelievable.


Joan Vennochi is a Globe columnist. She can be reached at joan.vennochi@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @joan_vennochi.