Mayor Walsh hires convicted former state representative as special assistant

Former state representative Carlos Henriquez was convicted in 2014 of punching a woman who refused to have sex with him.
Former state representative Carlos Henriquez was convicted in 2014 of punching a woman who refused to have sex with him.JOSH REYNOLDS FOR THE BOSTON GLOBE/File

When state representative Carlos Henriquez was convicted in 2014 of punching a woman who refused to have sex with him, Mayor Martin J. Walsh of Boston immediately called on the Dorchester Democrat to resign.

“Violence against women is an epidemic and is totally and universally unacceptable,” Walsh said.

But time, if not Henriquez’s six-month jail stint and expulsion from the State House, seems to have softened Walsh’s feelings.

The Boston mayor recently hired Henriquez as his $89,000-a-year special assistant for community engagement, working on antiviolence issues, among other things.

Walsh spokeswoman Samantha Ormsby said Friday the mayor “firmly believes in second chances.”


“Carlos Henriquez served his time and, after spending his career supporting youth, helping reduce violence, assisting those in recovery, and providing trauma supports for families in need, he is eager to continue this work,” Ormsby said.

Henriquez, 41, did not return e-mails seeking comment. He has been working as a consultant for the city for several months.

His conviction and jail sentence rattled Beacon Hill and polarized the minority community, including many who felt he was treated unfairly.

When the House of Representatives voted to strip Henriquez of his seat in February 2014, it was the first time a member of the Legislature had been expelled in nearly 100 years.

But Friday, some community leaders questioned why Walsh would hire Henriquez, especially to work on violence-prevention issues.

“There are multiple other people who could have been hired for that position,” said Monica Cannon, an antiviolence activist and unsuccessful candidate for state representative in 2016.

“Meanwhile, I’ve been waiting 108 days to have a conversation with the mayor around violence prevention while people are being murdered in the city. It’s been silence from him.”

City Councilor Lydia Edwards of East Boston was unaware that Henriquez had been hired.


“I’m speechless,” Edwards said, “and that doesn’t happen often.” She declined further comment.

City Council president Andrea Campbell also declined to comment directly on the appointment.

“There are folks in the community who have been doing incredible work in public safety,” Campbell said. “I would have loved for them to be considered.”

Other community leaders praised Walsh for giving Henriquez a second chance.

State Representative Russell Holmes of Mattapan, one of five lawmakers who voted to censure Henriquez rather than strip him of his seat, said Henriquez has shown “quite a bit of remorse” for his crime and wants “to move forward with his life.”

“He brings an enormous amount of talent to this conversation and the city. Obviously the mayor must feel similar to the way I feel; that’s why he brought him in,” Holmes said.

Darnell Williams, a civil rights activist who heads of the Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts, said he was surprised to learn of the hiring.

“The mayor has made a bold appointment with a person who has some challenges,’’ Williams said. “However, I believe everyone deserves a second chance.”

Joyce Linehan, the mayor’s policy chief, said she was “very active” in the city’s effort to hire Henriquez.

“He paid a price for that [incident] and I feel like it’s time for him to be able to move on and make a living,’’ Linehan said. “We are happy to have him here because I think he contributes quite a lot to the conversation.”


In sentencing Henriquez on two misdemeanor counts of assault and battery, Cambridge District Court Judge Michele Hogan said she was sending him to jail in part because of the serious nature of the crime and because of his refusal to accept responsibility for his actions.

“When a woman tells you she doesn’t want to have sex, that means she does not want to have sex,” Hogan said. “You don’t hit her. You don’t punch her . . . I’m very concerned that you’re not remorseful.”

The woman Henriquez was convicted of assaulting, Katherine Gonzalves, declined to discuss the case or his new job, according to her lawyer Richard Brody.

Henriquez has repeatedly insisted he was wrongly accused, including when he ran unsuccessfully last year for City Council.

“The experience of being falsely accused, wrongly convicted, and illegally expelled from the House was a very traumatic experience for me and that was before I was even incarcerated,” he said at the time.

In his new job, Henriquez will receive a 50 percent salary increase over the $60,000 a year he made as a state representative.

In an earlier, high profile case, the Walsh administration fired a top official accused of misconduct.

Former chief of health and human services Felix Arroyo was fired last year after a woman who worked in his department accused him of sexual harassment, alleging in a complaint that he created a hostile working environment, engaged in inappropriate conduct, and repeatedly harassed her. She said he once grabbed her by the back of her neck very hard.


Arroyo has vehemently denied the allegations. He was not charged with a crime.

At the time, Walsh said the termination of a key Cabinet official “was an important thing to do.”

Arroyo had been a rising star in city politics. He moved from union organizer to City Council aide to two-term councilor. He ran for mayor in 2013, parlaying that campaign into the high-ranking post in the Walsh administration.

Andrea Estes can be reached at andrea.estes@globe.com. Meghan Irons can be reached at meghan.irons@globe.com.