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The sad case of the Suffolk DA

The ugly race for the county’s top prosecutor is over. The damage lives on.

District Attorney Kevin R. Hayden left the Annual Greater Boston Labor Council Breakfast on Monday.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

Is it too late for somebody to launch a write-in campaign for Suffolk district attorney? Asking for some friends in Boston, Chelsea, Revere, and Winthrop.

There is no Republican candidate, so, barring a dramatic development, Kevin Hayden, the interim DA who won Tuesday’s Democratic primary, will win a full term come November.

He doesn’t deserve it.

Hayden is well regarded by plenty of people who have worked with him. He’s no reactionary, but he’s not progressive, either. He was backed by Republican Governor Charlie Baker, whose administration has taken a retrograde approach to criminal justice. Hayden has rolled back some of the efforts by his predecessor Rachael Rollins to avoid prosecuting the low-level offenses that keep those with the fewest resources cycling through the justice system. And he is way cozier with the police than his predecessor: Hayden was law enforcement’s favored candidate, and a Globe investigation called into question his handling of a police misconduct case.

But the contest turned on character, a count on which both candidates appear to be lacking, in a job where integrity is everything.


The race was blown open by 17-year-old sexual coercion allegations against City Councilor Ricardo Arroyo, whom Hayden defeated on Tuesday. When Globe reporters informed Arroyo about the allegations, leveled against him in high school, he said he had never coerced anyone into sex and claimed to have known nothing of the investigation at the time or since — even though documents obtained by the Globe suggest otherwise, and soon after reporters interviewed him, he reached out to one alleged victim. Dishonesty about such a serious matter should be disqualifying.

Arroyo was never charged. He decried the leak, called it illegal, and blamed Hayden for it. Somehow, Arroyo knew that the file, which is supposed to be secret, contained a determination that the sexual coercion claims were “unfounded.” He sued for the release of documents that would prove it, and a judge granted his request.


But shortly before the file was released on Friday afternoon, Hayden put out a statement saying his office had reviewed its file on the matter and that “nothing in the file suggests or indicates that the allegations were unfounded … also, nothing in the file questions the validity of the victim’s statements. The campaign to sabotage this victim’s credibility is shameful.”

This was a skeevy move by Hayden. Characterizing the documents in this way just before they were released publicly and launching an attack on his political opponent under the auspices of his official role, was enormously inappropriate. And it turns out his office mischaracterized the documents: An e-mail from the prosecutor assigned to the case — who still works in Hayden’s office — concluded “there was no crime committed.” And a case review by a Boston Police detective — who is currently one of Hayden’s drivers — did indeed call the alleged victim’s claims “unfounded.”

“This was a categorically false political statement that came with the investigative authority of the DA’s office,” said Thomas Nolan, a policing expert who spent 27 years on the Boston police force. “It was an attempt in my mind to mislead the voters of Suffolk County into believing that some crime was committed by Hayden’s opponent. It was unconscionable and unethical.”

Hayden spokesman Jim Borghesani rejected that characterization. He said the document calling the allegations “unfounded” was not in the files at Hayden’s office, and so that Friday statement was truthful. He denied the statement was released as a preemptive attempt to mischaracterize the documents. And Borghesani questions how Arroyo, who decried the leaking of the documents, knew what was in them before their public release.


“We saw [Arroyo’s claims] as a direct attack on the credibility of the victim, and we stand up for victims,” Borghesani said. That justified issuing the statement under the auspices of the district attorney’s office, he said. He and others have also said the documents do not conclude that the victim was lying.

Voters were clearly unpersuaded by the last-minute release of evidence supporting some of Arroyo’s claims and handed Hayden an easy win.

But the last man left on this brutal battlefield is deeply compromised. Hayden will have four years to show he is worthy of his vital office. That will require him to be quite different from the district attorney we’ve seen so far.

Globe columnist Yvonne Abraham can be reached at Follow her @GlobeAbraham.