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Boston City Councilor Kendra Lara pleads not guilty to multiple charges in connection with June crash

Boston City Councilor Kendra Lara left West Roxbury District Court after her arraignment in connection with a crash in which she slammed her car into a Jamaica Plain home.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

Boston City Councilor Kendra Lara was arraigned Wednesday at West Roxbury Municipal Court on nine charges in connection with a June crash where authorities allege she slammed an unregistered and uninsured car into a Jamaica Plain home while speeding with a revoked license.

Lara, 33, is now facing two additional charges of negligent operation of a motor vehicle and assault and battery on a child with injury on top of existing charges tied to the accident, which include operating a motor vehicle after suspension, operating an unregistered motor vehicle, and operating an uninsured motor vehicle.

At Wednesday’s arraignment, a not guilty plea was entered on her behalf, and the court ordered Lara not to drive without a license. She was released on personal recognizance. The next court date in the case is a pretrial conference scheduled for Aug. 16.

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“I know that as an elected official I have to hold myself to a higher standard, and I intend to do that,” Lara told reporters before her morning hearing. “I understand intimately the challenges my constituents are struggling with.”

Lara said she plans to continue representing District 6.

“There are often circumstances that prevent people from checking off all of their boxes and that sometimes manifest themselves as unpaid fines,” she said. “I plan to engage with this process and I have full faith and trust that the court is going to handle this with integrity.”

On a “clear and dry” June 30 afternoon, police said Lara was driving a Honda Civic down Centre Street during rush hour at twice the speed limit, going at least 53 miles per hour with her 7-year-old in the back seat.

One witness told police he was in his parked car preparing to drive away when he noticed a car, which turned out to be the one Lara was driving, traveling at a “high rate of speed.” He did not proceed into the street, fearing the sedan would hit his car, according to the report. He saw the car make a hard left turn into a fence before coming to a rest in some bushes and a front porch.

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An investigator noted in the report that “no evidence of braking was observed,” according to the photos from the scene.

The crash sent Lara’s son to Boston Children’s Hospital, where he received several stitches. One investigator noted there were multiple blood stains visible in the car after the crash.

Police contacted the state Department of Children and Families because Lara’s son was riding in the back seat without a booster seat, which is required for children under age 8 or who are under 57 inches tall, according to the police report.

Few new details regarding the crash were offered in court on Wednesday. At the the clerk magistrate’s hearing, a pair of police officers read from reports, the details of which had already been made public. One of the officers went through his investigation and explained how he came to the conclusion that Lara was driving more than twice the speed limit of 25 miles per hour.

Lara’s attorney, Carlton E. Williams, said that the idea that someone could estimate speed to fractions of a mile per hour “seems difficult to imagine.”

First Assistant Clerk Magistrate Paul Troy pointed out that the car left the roadway, traversed the sidewalk, went through a fence, and struck a house.

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“That meets the elements of reckless operation,” Troy said.

But Williams argued that Lara was faced with a troubling choice: Either hit a car or turn to avoid it.

“I’m not suggesting that’s a safe thing to do, but I’m definitely suggesting that’s a safer thing to do,” Williams said.

Troy replied, “I would suggest that’s not your only option.”

At one point, Williams tried to ask questions directly of one of the police officers at the hearing, but Troy shut that down, saying the purpose of the hearing was to determine whether there was probable cause for the charges.

“This isn’t a trial,” he said.

When police make an arrest at the scene, they have already determined probable cause for the charges they are bringing against someone. If they don’t arrest someone at the scene but investigators are later looking to bring forward charges, such as in Lara’s case, probable cause can be determined at a clerk magistrate’s hearing. On Wednesday, probable cause was determined for all charges against Lara, meaning the matter proceeded to an arraignment.

“I would like to see her be responsible for the damage she caused, but she’s not going to do that,” Georgia Kalogerakis, the 83-year-old owner of the Centre Street home Lara crashed into, said at the courthouse Wednesday.

At her arraignment, conditions of Lara’s release included no arrests and no driving without a valid license. Should she violate those conditions, she could face up to 60 days in jail. At the courthouse, a few lawmakers showed up to support Lara, including state Representative Russell E. Holmes and City Councilors Ricardo Arroyo, Julia Mejia, and Tania Fernandes Anderson, who blew Lara a kiss from across a bench as she awaited her arraignment.

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Afterwards on the steps of the courthouse, Lara said she was “committed to seeing this process through.”

She was then mobbed by the press while walking to a car, as well as by a few hecklers, one of whom screamed for her to resign. A short time later, Lara arrived at City Hall for the City Council’s weekly meeting.

In a separate set of legal challenges for Lara, the city is scheduling a hearing to determine whether she lives in her district after five residents last week formally alleged that she does not. Lara has said emphatically that she does live in District 6, which includes Jamaica Plain and West Roxbury, and those who filed complaints did not immediately provide evidence to the city that she does not.

Council candidates must live in the districts they seek to represent for one year before the general election; district councilors must live in the districts they represent.

Sabino Piemonte, head assistant registrar of voters for Boston, notified the city’s Elections Commission on Wednesday that the city is taking the “necessary steps” to schedule a hearing about Lara’s residency.

“When objections to nomination papers are filed, the Elections Commission, along with the Chief Justice of the Boston Municipal Court, sits as the Boston Ballot Law Commission to consider the objections and related evidence presented by the parties,” Piemonte wrote.

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The people who challenged Lara’s residency “will carry the burden” of proving their claims, Piemonte wrote, and “if they make a showing based upon evidentiary and objective information, the responsibility will shift to Councilor Lara.”

In an interview with the Globe last week, Lara said “I can unequivocally confirm that I live” on Saint Rose Street in Jamaica Plain, citing the address that she gave the city’s elections department to get on this fall’s ballot.

Lara is also registered to vote at that address, city records show.

The city received challenges last week from Rasheed Walters, Anthony Strong, Kerry Castor, Jeanne Black, and Stephen Morris. One challenge, from Morris, was received just after a 5 p.m. deadline for filing such objections.

Walters, who has contributed to The Boston Herald, was one of the plaintiffs challenging the city over its new political map in long-running federal litigation over redistricting. Another challenge came from Anthony Strong and an email address affiliated with the “Boston Accountability Network,” which both match names of vocal Twitter accounts critical of Lara, Mayor Michelle Wu, and other progressives.

Travis Andersen of Globe staff contributed to this report.


Danny McDonald can be reached at daniel.mcdonald@globe.com. Follow him @Danny__McDonald. Vivi Smilgius can be reached at vivi.smilgius@globe.com. Follow her @viviraye. Emma Platoff can be reached at emma.platoff@globe.com. Follow her @emmaplatoff.