What’s it all about? A primer on the spat between DA Rollins and Baker administration
Suffolk District Attorney Rachael Rollins and Governor Charlie Baker’s administration have sparred in recent days over the prosecutor’s recently released policy memo outlining her approach to fixing longstanding inequities in the criminal justice system.
But what exactly has everyone been fighting about? Here’s a primer on the key issues that have Rollins at odds with Baker’s team.
■ The “Do Not Prosecute” List, and Related Proposals — Rollins raised eyebrows among fellow law enforcement officials with a section in the policy memo that referenced a so-called “do-not-prosecute” list of nonviolent offenses that Rollins’s staff will no longer pursue in court. The list includes crimes such as trespassing, shoplifting and drug possession.
Other policies outlined in the memo include reassessing cash bail in some ongoing cases, reviewing pending Suffolk County appellate cases, and employing plea negotiations that emphasize diversion, not incarceration.
Rollins has said her memo included policies she was elected on and that it codified past practices of her predecessors.
But Thomas A. Turco III, Massachusetts’ public safety and security secretary, wrote in a letter of his own last week that he felt Rollins’ policies could undermine efforts to curb the ongoing opioid crisis and put some crime victims at risk.
Turco, however, also praised Rollins’s “efforts to think differently’’ about criminal justice.
■The A.J. Baker case--Rollins has also criticized the handling of a case involving Baker’s son, Andrew “A.J.” Baker, who was accused in June of groping a woman during a flight to Boston. The younger Baker was escorted off the plane by State Police but not arrested. Governor Baker said at the time the US attorney’s office for Massachusetts would investigate.
A.J. Baker hasn’t been charged with any crimes.
Rollins told reporters Friday that “not everyone gets the benefit of the Baker family when they have interacted with the criminal justice system, they don’t get to not get arrested, have the State Police that reports to them handle the investigation, et cetera.”
Governor Baker told reporters Saturday that he “said when the whole thing started that it was a serious allegation and it needed to be independently investigated.” In addition, the governor said, he expects “that the US attorney, which was the appropriate authority to do that investigation, was the right place for that to get done, and I believe they did what they were supposed to do.”
■Allegations of Gender Bias--Rollins, who took office in January, asserted during a press conference Friday that her male predecessors were treated differently.
“As your new DA, and the first woman to ever have this job, it has been very apparent to me that the men that were in this position before me were treated with quite a bit more respect,” Rollins said. “But I didn’t get into this job to make friends, I got into this job to make change.”
A Baker spokeswoman said Friday that the administration “does not engage in personal attacks, and raised specific and legitimate public safety concerns that could affect the residents of the Commonwealth.”
Is more tension ahead? No, according to separate interviews with Rollins and Baker over the weekend.
Baker told reporters Saturday that he had called Rollins earlier in the day, and the two “basically just talked about public safety and working together, and I think it was a very helpful and constructive conversation.”
He continued, “I think we’re going to try and hit the reset button and start again on Monday.”
And Rollins told Globe columnist Adrian Walker on Saturday that she appreciated Baker’s gesture.
“I have deep respect for him for being the leader he is, and calling me, and I have nothing further to say about the matter,” Rollins said. “We had an incredibly productive conversation and now it’s time to get to work.”