Boston City Councilor Ricardo Arroyo, under scrutiny for years-old sexual assault allegations, saw his big-name political backing vanish Wednesday as Boston Mayor Michelle Wu, Senators Elizabeth Warren and Edward J. Markey, and Representative Ayanna Pressley all pulled their support for his candidacy for Suffolk district attorney just days before the primary election.
Their abrupt abandonment of Arroyo came after the first public comments from one of his alleged victims, a former high school classmate who said Arroyo coerced her into providing oral sex in 2005. The woman, who the Globe is not naming to protect her privacy, said “women are not going to feel safe calling his office” if Arroyo is elected district attorney.
Arroyo was never charged in the 2005 case, or in a second case of alleged assault in 2007, though police investigated both times.
It was a day of stinging rebukes for Arroyo, who denied that he sexually assaulted anyone and vowed to not quit the race. He plans to be in Suffolk Superior Court Thursday in hopes of obtaining police files that he believes will show the allegations were unfounded.
“I have never, as a minor or ever, sexually assaulted anyone,” Arroyo said in a morning statement.
That didn’t stop a parade of supporters from rescinding their endorsements, starting with Wu and Massachusetts’ two senators, then trickling down to state and local officials, including two colleagues on the Boston City Council, state Senator Sal DiDomenico, and state Representative Jon Santiago.
Wednesday evening, the Boston Teachers Union withdrew its support, saying that “based on the information that we have at this time,” it was rescinding its endorsement of Arroyo.
Miniard Culpepper, a pastor and candidate for state Senate from Dorchester, who had not endorsed Arroyo, called on the city councilor to drop out of the district attorney race.
“I think people are making decisions for themselves,” Arroyo said of the endorsers who withdrew their support, speaking to reporters after a chaotic meeting of the City Council Wednesday.
Regarding his 2005 accuser, he said, “I want to be sensitive to the fact that I see that she is in pain, at least that’s what I took from that. ... I’m certainly searching my heart and my spirit and trying to sort of reanalyze every interaction I’ve ever had back when I was a junior in high school.”
Wu became the first major politician of the day to pull her endorsement hours after the Globe reported that Arroyo’s 2005 accuser was shocked by his denials and claim that he didn’t know about the allegations until he was informed by the Globe in August.
“It makes me feel sick, sick to my stomach,” she said in an interview Monday night, shortly after reaching out to the Globe. “I see so many people continuing to endorse him without finding out more.”
The woman said she stands by what she reported to police about Arroyo in 2005: coerced sex, and mental manipulation and threats that she said he sent her. She said she didn’t pursue the matter with prosecutors years ago because it appeared to her that officials at John D. O’Bryant School of Mathematics and Science heard her concerns and immediately took action: She didn’t see Arroyo in school for the rest of the academic year.
Arroyo has said he eventually withdrew from O’Bryant to care for his mother, not because of the allegations. He later received his GED before going on to college and law school.
The decision of the woman to come forward triggered a fresh wave of supporters to abandon Arroyo Wednesday, including the state’s most prominent political figures.
“The allegations by someone who was a minor at the time are deeply troubling to me as is newly reported information on anonymous threats she received in the past,” Wu wrote on Twitter. “For the District Attorney to advance reforms our communities deserve, the office must have our communities trust and confidence.”
“I can no longer make a public recommendation for a candidate for this office.” Wu had endorsed Arroyo in May.
Warren and Markey, meanwhile, issued a joint statement saying that “the accusations in this case are serious, and in light of the latest victim statements reported in Tuesday evening’s Boston Globe, we have notified the campaign that we are rescinding our endorsement of Ricardo Arroyo for District Attorney.”
Pressley posted her own, brief statement early Wednesday afternoon. “The events of the past two weeks have caused renewed trauma for all involved and deeply eroded public trust in our candidates for Suffolk County District Attorney,” she tweeted. “As a result, I am no longer endorsing in this race.”
Arroyo said he is seeking an emergency court order that would give him access to law enforcement files that he asserts will show that investigators determined that the allegations, made against him when he was a junior in high school, were unfounded. A hearing on Arroyo’s request is scheduled to take place in Suffolk Superior Court in Boston on Thursday.
Arroyo is slated to face District Attorney Kevin Hayden, who was appointed to the post earlier this year, in Tuesday’s primary. Hayden, too, has been hit with controversy in recent days, after a Boston Globe investigation exposed a coverup by Transit Police officers that raised questions about how prosecutors handled the case. And in her statement detailing her withdrawal of support for Arroyo, Wu said that move should not be interpreted as tacit approval of Hayden.
“I continue to have serious concerns about Mr. Hayden’s judgment in prosecuting cases, his handling of media scrutiny of pending cases and his conduct in office,” said Wu in her statement.
Wu’s decision to pull her endorsement, and Arroyo’s to remain in the race, came hours before an explosive City Council meeting that began at noon Wednesday. President Ed Flynn on Monday stripped Arroyo of his vice presidency of the council and two key committee chairmanships in light of the sexual assault allegations.
Arroyo was in the council chambers Wednesday as he and his colleagues worked through issues on the panel’s agenda. At one point, a woman holding a sign scrawled with the words, “Me Too” was escorted out of the council chamber. Flynn eventually cleared the room, and a scuffle among spectators in the hall led to a man being arrested.
More outbursts. People yelling at each other. Flynn orders the public out of the chambers. Total chaos.— Danny McDonald (@Danny__McDonald) August 31, 2022
Several other allies who’d stuck by Arroyo after the initial allegations surfaced withdrew their support Wednesday, including his City Council colleagues Gabriela “Gigi” Coletta and Ruthzee Louijeune.
“I am more aligned with Ricardo’s vision for the DA’s office as it relates to criminal, racial, and social justice,” Coletta said in a statement posted to Twitter. “However, I am no longer recommending a candidate for this race.” She also called for the release of all the files related to the investigation “as soon as possible.”
Noting the “conundrum” facing voters over the controversies surrounding both candidates, Louijeune said in her own statement that she was withdrawing her support from Arroyo and remaining neutral in the race “[o]ut of an abundance of caution that my continued support would be using my power and position to silence the voice of any survivor of sexual violence.”
John R. Ellement and Andrea Estes of the Globe staff contributed to this report.
Correction: Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this story inaccurately stated that the Rev. Miniard Culpepper had withdrawn an endorsement of Ricardo Arroyo. Culpepper had not endorsed Arroyo. The Globe regrets the error.