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Judge says identity of Hefner accuser will remain private for now

Bryon Hefner, the husband of former Massachusetts Senate president Stan Rosenberg, appeared in court in April.
Bryon Hefner, the husband of former Massachusetts Senate president Stan Rosenberg, appeared in court in April.Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff/File

The identity of a onetime State House aide who’s suing former Senate president Stanley C. Rosenberg and his husband, Bryon Hefner, will be kept secret — at least until trial — after a judge rebuffed the ex-lawmaker’s challenge to publicly reveal the man’s name.

Known as John Doe in court documents, the man alleged that Hefner, 31, sexually assaulted him at least three times in 2015 and 2016, and that identifying him publicly would subject him to further “psychological harm and trauma.”

Superior Court Judge Robert N. Tochka said that concern “elevates” his interest to privacy above the simple embarrassment of being identified, according to an order filed Wednesday in Suffolk Superior Court. The man’s name will be kept sealed until the first day of trial, which could be at least a year away, said Mitchell Garabedian, his attorney.

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Rosenberg and Hefner had opposed the man’s motion to shield his identity after he filed the civil lawsuit, which alleges that Rosenberg, 68, “knew or was aware” that Hefner posed a risk to others, yet allowed his husband access to State House staff, lobbyists, and others.

Attorneys for Rosenberg and Hefner argued that allowing the man to remain anonymous creates an uneven “playing field.”

But Tochka said the man’s privacy interests outweigh the presumption of public disclosure, even in this case, in which the defendants’ ties to the Senate create “vital interest” in the allegations.

The man’s attorneys confirmed he is one of the complainants in a criminal case against Hefner, who has pleaded not guilty to multiple counts of sexual assault.

Garabedian has said that it’s possible his client could ultimately choose to publicly identify himself. But he said in court last month that he’s prepared to ask for other accommodations if his client wants to remain anonymous, including closing the courtroom during trial “if need be.”

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“The decision by the court will send the message to many other sexual abuse victims that they can seek justice in our court system,” Garabedian said Wednesday of Tochka’s order.

Attorneys for Rosenberg and Hefner did not respond to calls and e-mails seeking comment on Wednesday night.

Rosenberg has also filed paperwork indicating he will seek to dismiss counts against him as part of the lawsuit.

The plaintiff, who was working at the time as a legislative aide, said in court documents that he met Hefner at a bar on June 18, 2015, to discuss “political matters” before joining him at Rosenberg’s Beacon Hill condo to await a mutual friend.

Hefner and the plaintiff were having drinks on the couch when Hefner put his hand between the man’s legs, the lawsuit alleges.

The plaintiff pushed his hand away, but Hefner groped him “several more times” before unzipping the plaintiff’s pants without his consent, according to the lawsuit.

The plaintiff eventually got up and waited in a bathroom before their mutual friend arrived.

The next spring, Hefner groped the plaintiff again, the lawsuit charges, this time in April while they were in the back seat of a car en route to a political event in Boston. With Rosenberg sitting in the front seat, the plaintiff said, he had to push Hefner’s hand away and told him “screw off” — after which Rosenberg said, “Knock it off back there,” according to the lawsuit.

Hefner and the plaintiff were later seated next to each other at a dinner with Rosenberg and members of his staff in Boston, when Hefner groped him again, the plaintiff said

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The plaintiff said he didn’t report Hefner because he feared Rosenberg would retaliate against him.

Rosenberg, who resigned from his Senate seat following an ethics investigation, has said he didn’t have any knowledge of allegations of sexual assault against Hefner before they were made public.


Matt Stout can be reached at matt.stout@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @mattpstout.