When Boston police officers Joseph Abasciano and Jose Diaz drove to Washington, D.C., two years ago, they had one thing in mind: Attend a massive rally protesting the election of President Biden.
They drove down in the same car. They stayed one night together in a hotel room. And after the Trump-inspired Jan. 6 insurrection at the nation’s Capitol, they drove back to Boston together.
Despite their actions nearly mirroring each other, only one of them — Abasciano — was fired. The difference in outcome appears to be a series of tweets.
Internal affairs documents released in the wake of Abasciano’s firing last week show he appears to have lost his job because of what he posted on Twitter about Jan. 6, not for his presence at the rally and subsequent unrest.
Diaz, meanwhile, escaped with no punishment, the department confirmed in an e-mail last week.
Izzy Marrero, chair of the Latino Law Enforcement Group of Boston, said the reason behind Diaz not being disciplined is simple.
“People shouldn’t be penalized for exercising their constitutional rights,” he said.
Harvey Silverglate, a criminal defense and civil liberties lawyer, echoed Marrero’s words. He said the Constitution’s 14th Amendment, which grants every citizen “equal protection under the laws,” is crucial in these cases.
“Just like a cop on the beat has to treat all citizens equally, a cop is entitled to be treated equally as well,” he said.
Silverglate said the standard for termination in such a case would be “whether or not the activity or the speech impacts the ability of the officer to do his or her job in a neutral fashion.”
He said even public employees are entitled to “be MAGA followers.”
“That may upset some people, but it happens to be a fact,” he said.
Internal affairs documents obtained by the Globe show two officers whose political ideologies were in sync. At one point the two worked in the same police district, both served on a local Republican ward committee, and both shared concerns about the results of the last presidential election.
On the eve of the insurrection, the pair rented a car and drove to Washington. According to the documents, neither officer had department equipment, guns, or phones. Diaz was on a day off; Abasciano was out on continuous Family and Medical Leave Act leave.
On the morning of Jan. 6, they ate breakfast in their hotel room then made their way to the rally, documents show.
That morning, the tweets started rolling in. At 8:14 a.m., Abasciano posted, “Today is a day for choosing. Today there will be only two parties in America. Traitor and Patriots.”
At the rally, the two listened to a litany of speakers, including then-president Donald Trump, who would go on to tell then-Vice President Mike Pence not to certify the election results.
At 12:40 p.m., Abasciano tweeted, “Everything that happens going forward @VP is now on your conscience.”
After the rally, Abasciano and Diaz made their way toward the Capitol Building, according to the department’s investigation. Though they did not enter the building or Capitol grounds, the pair watched the crowd “in a tug of war” with police and saw some “agitators and violence from the crowd” on some stairs, according to records.
At 5:22 p.m., Abasciano tweeted, “What I saw today frankly made me weep for our once great nation . . . Patriots v. Law Enforcement trying to do their jobs in a no win position. I fear this Treasonous election has killed the republic.”
Abasciano and Diaz eventually made their way back on the road back to Boston around 6 p.m.
From the road, shortly before 7 p.m., Abasciano fired off a tweet accusing Pence of treason and blaming him for “the murder of an innocent girl and the death of America.”
In the aftermath of Jan. 6, a trio of city councilors, including current mayor Michelle Wu and current attorney general Andrea Campbell, called for any city employee who was part of the attack on the Capitol to be fired.
Abasciano was on administrative leave for two years before being fired. Diaz continued to serve on BPD.
Asked about Diaz’s lack of discipline over being at Jan. 6, Wu did not say whether the officer should be fired. Instead, her office referred to comments the mayor made earlier in the month, when she said that police officers “perform some of the most important work in our society.”
“They swear an oath to uphold the laws of our country, our state and our city, as well as the rules of the Boston Police Department, that is how we implement public safety is by ensuring the public trust that the laws will be upheld and that rules will be followed fairly,” she said. “That means at a very baseline, our officers have to follow the rules.”
The lack of punishment for Diaz bothers some local activists.
“It’s super concerning,” said Jamarhl Crawford, a community advocate who has served on a city police reform task force.
“You’re guilty if you were there, because what was the whistle that you responded to to get you there?” he said. “You have to be harboring some pretty . . . questionable thoughts that would bring into question your ability to be a public servant.”
Danny McDonald can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Danny__McDonald.