Bryon Hefner, Rosenberg’s husband, pleads not guilty to multiple charges
The scandal that ended the Senate presidency of Stanley C. Rosenberg moved out of the State House and into the courthouse Tuesday as Rosenberg’s husband, Bryon Hefner, faced accusations that he sexually assaulted three men and disseminated naked photos of a fourth without his consent.
Prosecutors alleged that Hefner engaged in a pattern of assaults and misconduct over multiple years, and detailed the alleged acts in vivid terms — Hefner repeatedly groped two men against their will, kissed another “aggressively on the lips without his consent,” and boastfully showed nude photos of yet another man who said he never agreed to having the pictures taken.
Hefner, 30, pleaded not guilty to five counts of sexual assault, four counts of distributing nude images without consent, and one count of criminal lewdness in Suffolk Superior Court.
He did not show emotion at the short arraignment. Assistant Clerk Magistrate Lisa Medeiros released Hefner on personal recognizance, forbade him from contacting victims or witnesses (except two people, whose names were not disclosed), set the trial for the spring of 2019, and prohibited him from State House grounds.
It marked Hefner’s first high-profile public appearance since a Globe story in November that detailed allegations against Hefner from four unnamed men who said he had sexually assaulted or harassed them and bragged he could influence Senate business. All four told the Globe they felt powerless to report the incidents because they feared alienating Rosenberg, with whom they believed Hefner held tremendous sway.
Two of the men who made allegations against Hefner in that story have said they are among the men cited in the indictments against Hefner.
After the arraignment, Hefner did not respond to reporters’ questions. But his lawyer Tracy Miner released a statement.
“Mr. Hefner Rosenberg has pled not guilty to the charges and looks forward to defending himself in a court of law where accusers cannot remain anonymous and must face cross-examination,” the statement said. “Unfortunately, he has already been pilloried in the press for political purposes, having never had a trial.”
A statewide grand jury handed down the indictments last month after a joint investigation between the offices of Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley and Attorney General Maura T. Healey.
“The defendant, Bryon Hefner, is charged with engaging in a pattern of assault and exploitative conduct,” Assistant Attorney General Jennifer L. Snook said at the arraignment. “He targeted both young men and older men and made the assaults in both public and private settings.”
Prosecutors allege that Hefner sexually assaulted one victim on three separate occasions.
On June 18, 2015, the man and Hefner met for drinks at a Boston bar and then went back to Hefner’s Beacon Hill condo. Prosecutors allege that as they sat on a couch, Hefner grabbed the man’s genitals through his clothes without his consent.
The man pushed Hefner away, but Hefner repeatedly grabbed at him and, at one point, unzipped his pants. The man pushed Hefner’s hand away each time and eventually escaped by going to the bathroom and staying there until a mutual friend arrived, prosecutors said.
The same man was traveling with Hefner and two other people in a car to a political event on April 19, 2016, according to prosecutors. Prosecutors say he and Hefner were sitting in the back seat when Hefner put his hands between the man’s legs and touched his genitals over his clothes; the man pushed him away; then Hefner did it again. “Screw off,” the man told Hefner, according to prosecutors’ statement of the case.
That same day, Hefner and the man were seated next to each other at a dinner, and Hefner allegedly grabbed the person’s genitals through his clothes again.
On Aug. 21, 2016, Hefner, another man, and his wife were celebrating a birthday in Boston. Prosecutors say that Hefner called the man “hot.” Later, as the group left the building where they were celebrating in the early evening, prosecutors allege, Hefner “kissed him aggressively on the lips without his consent.”
A third man first met Hefner in 2014 and they became close friends, court filings say. In the fall of 2014 at Hefner’s condo, Hefner allegedly undid his pants and tried to stick his hands in his underwear. The man retreated into the bathroom.
In June 2016, prosecutors say, Hefner went to that man’s apartment in Boston. The man wanted to rest in his bedroom and told Hefner to wait in the living room. But, prosecutors allege, Hefner tried to climb into bed with him multiple times. The man pushed Hefner away each time. Hefner then dropped his pants to his ankles and exposed his genitals and buttocks to the person, who prosecutors say was shocked.
The final man mentioned in the indictment met Hefner in 2011. In December 2013, both attended a conference that lasted a few days. The man recalled consuming a large amount of alcohol one night at the conference and being in a hotel suite with Hefner. When the man awoke the next morning, he was naked and alone in his own hotel bed with no memory of how he got there.
Several years later, the man learned that Hefner was in possession of naked photos of him, though he says he never consented to having Hefner take such pictures, and never consented to the images being shared, according to prosecutors.
Prosecutors say that Boston police and State Police located four people who reported that at various separate times in Boston from December 2013 through 2015, Hefner showed them naked photos of the man on his cellphone.
“The defendant did so in a casual and boastful manner,” prosecutors said.
Rosenberg, 68, a longtime state legislator, was elected to the presidency by his colleagues in January 2015.
After the Globe story last year, he stepped down from his leadership post but remains a rank-and-file legislator.
Though three of the alleged incidents reported in the Globe took place when Rosenberg was mere feet away, the newspaper found no evidence that the Senate president knew about the assaults.
A Senate committee is investigating Rosenberg’s conduct and whether he broke any Senate rules. Its report is expected to be released soon.
Rosenberg aides have said the senator and Hefner, who got married on Sept. 6, 2016, are separated.
A Rosenberg spokeswoman declined to comment Tuesday.
An Amherst Democrat, Rosenberg is running for reelection this year. He faces a primary opponent, Chelsea Kline of Northampton, for the first time since 1991.