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Judge grants Arroyo request for access to sex assault files

Ricardo Arroyo spoke outside Suffolk Superior after his hearing request.David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

A Superior Court judge Thursday granted Boston City Councilor Ricardo Arroyo access to redacted versions of some investigative documents from 2005 sexual assault allegations against him, which he had sought after revelations of the accusations over the last week rocked his campaign for Suffolk district attorney.

Calling the circumstances of the case “unprecedented,” Suffolk Superior Judge Debra Squires-Lee ruled that “In light of the apparent and immediate impact on an ongoing primary election and Arroyo’s ability to serve effectively in his current role, I find that Arroyo will suffer irreparable harm if he is denied the requested materials to respond to the public allegation.”

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She ordered the city of Boston to provide Arroyo with the Boston Police Department’s 2005 investigative file of the case by 2 p.m. Friday, but also said the city should redact certain information.

In the judge’s order, the list of redactions or files not to be disclosed include the allegations from the accuser that were featured in the narrative portion of the Boston Police incident report, an entire followup investigation report, and an entire sexual assault unit case update.

Given that the accuser in the case has spoken with the news media and information about the allegation is already public, the judge found “no additional risk of invasion of privacy so long as all identifying information and all statements of the complaining witness are redacted.”

“As I have maintained from the beginning, I’ve never sexually assaulted anyone,” Arroyo said in a statement Thursday night. “And I know tomorrow will show the allegations from 2005 were determined to be unfounded.”

He added that he was committed to protecting the identity of the individual at the heart of the case.

Leonard H. Kesten, an attorney for the woman in the case who had opposed release of the files, said she was disappointed but respected the judge’s decision.

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”There is absolutely nothing in the file that suggests in any way that she was not credible,” Kesten said. “What we know is that in 2005, a single prosecutor concluded that no crime was committed merely because there was no indication of threats or violence reported. We are grateful that the concept of what constitutes rape and sexual assault has changed since2005: no means no.”

Arroyo had sought the emergency order after The Boston Globe published several stories about two investigations of possible sexual assault by him when he was a teenager, one in 2005 and the other in 2007. The woman in the 2007 case has since said he did not assault her.

But in an interview with the Globe, the woman from the 2005 case said she stands by what she told police, that Arroyo pressured her to perform oral sex several times when the two were high school classmates.

Arroyo was never criminally charged, and he has steadfastly denied ever sexually assaulting anyone.

The Boston Police Department had refused Arroyo’s request for access to the files, citing privacy laws that protect sexual assault victims. But, during a hearing Thursday on Arroyo’s emergency request, his attorney, Anthony Ellison, told the judge his client is being “harmed every day.”

“He can’t pull out the papers that exonerate him,” he said.

Ellison added that voters who are casting ballots in the Suffolk district attorney’s race have a right to know the outcome of the 2005 allegations, as do Arroyo’s Boston constituents.

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Outside the courthouse after the hearing, Arroyo told reporters that “beyond even this race, this is my life. And I think it’s important that people understand the facts of this, because I have to live with these allegations now, because they’re in the public space, for the rest of my life. It’s only fair, I believe, that the conclusions in the investigation are also made public.”

Arroyo sought specific police incident reports and correspondence between Boston Police and the Suffolk DA’s office in and around 2006. The 34-year-old former public defender is locked in an ugly Democratic primary with current Suffolk District Attorney Kevin R. Hayden, who also is under scrutiny for his handling of police misconduct allegations.

Thursday’s court hearing came just days before primary day. But because of mail-in voting and early in-person voting, tens of thousands of ballots have already been cast in the race even as the controversy continues to unfold. As of mid-Thursday morning, nearly 32,000 people in Suffolk County had voted, of which more than 29,000 were Democratic ballots, according to the Massachusetts secretary of state’s office.

Attorneys representing the city of Boston had opposed the release of the documents. Jess Megee, an attorney for the city, argued in court Thursday that disclosure of the records would be inappropriate, saying they were protected by state law.

“If the Legislature wanted to give the accused access to these, they could have put them on the list of people that are properly recipients of these files, and they did not,” said Megee.

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And Kesten, had argued that releasing the documents would trigger a public debate about whether his client is lying.

“It’ll destroy this young woman,” he said.

What she told police years ago, said Kesten, “was true then, it’s true now, it’ll always be true.”

Earlier on Thursday, in an appearance on a local talk show, Arroyo seemed to fight back tears while telling an interviewer that it’s been difficult responding to the allegations.

“I don’t like pain,” Arroyo said, his voice quavering, during a morning appearance on the “Java With Jimmy” program, hosted by James Hills. “I ran to mitigate harm, to prevent pain. And so, to see this much pain, it hurts. It hurts my heart. You know, from the standpoint of people making allegations that I won’t stand up for women who’ve been assaulted or men who’ve been assaulted sexually, that’s completely false.”

His talk show appearance came three days after the woman in the 2005 case spoke out in an interview with The Boston Globe.

“It makes me feel sick, sick to my stomach,” the woman 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. As the potential DA, women are not going to feel safe calling his office. Their cases won’t get heard. ... All those people will be afraid to come forward.”

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Her remarks came after Arroyo held a press conference last week to push back against an earlier Globe story that revealed he had been investigated twice for possible sexual assault years earlier. Arroyo said he was never informed of any investigations.

The woman 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 at school for the rest of the school year.

Boston Police investigated two sets of sexual assault allegations against Arroyo him: In the 2007 case, a 16-year-old girl told police she was drinking at a party and believed that Arroyo, then 19, may have raped her. That investigation was closed without criminal charges, and last week, the woman who made the original allegation said Arroyo did not rape her.

But after the woman from the 2005 case came forward in her Globe interview, Arroyo saw his big-name political backing vanish as Boston Mayor Michelle Wu, Senators Elizabeth Warren and Edward J. Markey, and Representative Ayanna Pressley all pulled their support for his candidacy for the DA post. And on Thursday, former acting Boston mayor Kim Janey also withdrew her endorsement of Arroyo.

Matt Stout of Globe staff contributed to this report.


Danny McDonald can be reached at daniel.mcdonald@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @Danny__McDonald. Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.