Metro

Judge overseeing lawsuit against Hefner, Rosenberg steps down

Former state Senate president Stanley Rosenberg (left) and estranged husband Bryon Hefner.
Elise Amendola/Associated Press/File 2018
Former state Senate president Stanley Rosenberg (left) and estranged husband Bryon Hefner.

The Superior Court judge who approved a request to shield the name of the man suing former Senate president Stanley C. Rosenberg and his husband, Bryon Hefner, abruptly stepped down from the civil case Friday, shortly after the two filed paperwork opposing it.

Judge Debra A. Squires-Lee did not say why she recused herself from the case against Hefner and Rosenberg, which alleges that Hefner sexually assaulted a then-State House aide and that Rosenberg “knew or was aware” that Hefner posed a risk to others.

The aide, identified as John Doe in court filings, said Hefner sexually assaulted him at least three times in 2015 and 2016.

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Squires-Lee had allowed a motion to initially impound the name of the plaintiff when the case was filed in mid-June. The order was then extended until July 11, the next court date in the case.

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Rosenberg’s attorney submitted a filing this week seeking to publicly identify the man, arguing his concerns about releasing his name don’t distinguish him from other plaintiffs alleging sexual assault, who “have generally not been allowed to proceed anonymously.”

“[The] plaintiff,” attorney Michael J. Pineault wrote, “fails to advance any grounds sufficient to justify permitting him to continue to level highly public, incendiary, and destructive allegations against Mr. Rosenberg from behind ‘a cloak of anonymity.’ ”

The allegations and dates detailed in the lawsuit are identical to those involving one of the men who prosecutors say Hefner repeatedly groped.

Tracy A. Miner, Hefner’s attorney, said in a separate filing that the man has already spoken to two Boston Globe reporters and at least two others.

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“[The] plaintiff’s willingness to disclose his allegations to the media and other[s] belies his contention that proceeding anonymously is in his best interest,” Miner wrote.

The Boston Herald first reported Rosenberg and Hefner’s filings.

Mitchell Garabedian, the plaintiff’s attorney, said Friday he had to limit his comments, given the ongoing criminal case against Hefner.

“My client is courageous in coming forward, speaking out and filing a lawsuit with regard to this matter,” Garabedian said.

Squires-Lee declined to comment through a spokeswoman about why she stepped down from the case. Jennifer Donahue, a Trial Court spokeswoman, said judges typically don’t state their reasons for recusal.

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The civil lawsuit is scheduled to return to Suffolk Superior Court with Judge Robert N. Tochka presiding.

The lawsuit accuses Rosenberg of making “excuses” for Hefner’s conduct and “equipping defendant Hefner with the tools to act as an actual agent for” the Amherst Democrat.

As a result, it was Rosenberg who subjected the plaintiff, and others, to Hefner even though he “knew or was aware that defendant Hefner posed a substantial risk of serious harm,” the 16-page complaint charges.

The plaintiff said he did not report Hefner because he feared Rosenberg would retaliate against him.

Reach Matt Stout at matt.stout@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @mattpstout.