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Boston firefighter is found guilty in assault of coworker at firehouse

A Boston firefighter was found guilty Wednesday of assaulting a female colleague, in an incident that underscored the dwindling number of women in the city’s fire force and the hostility some say they have long endured.

After a two-day trial that began Tuesday, jurors in West Roxbury District Court found firefighter David Sanchez, 39, guilty of one count of indecent assault and battery and one count of assault and battery in the Jan. 14, 2018, incident, according to the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office.

“Women have the right to work in any field they choose without being sexually harassed or assaulted,’’ said Suffolk District Attorney Rachael Rollins. “That the defendant is a firefighter, a noble profession committed to helping others, and would inflict this harm makes his actions all the more disturbing.”

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Rollins said her office will continue to support the woman, adding that “the survivor in this case showed a great degree of strength and courage by standing up for her rights and helping us hold the person who harmed her accountable.”

Sanchez, who joined the force in 2006, has resigned “effectively immediately,” Fire Commissioner Joseph Finn said.

“These actions go directly against the values we hold at the Boston Fire Department,’’ Finn said in a statement.

Sanchez’s sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 24, the DA’s office said.

Efforts to reach Sanchez were unsuccessful.

The woman who filed the complaint, who is also suing the department over its handling of the incident, declined to comment. (The Globe does not identify people who allege sexual assault without their consent.)

Jonathan J. Margolis, a Boston attorney representing the woman in the case, said she simply wants to return to doing her job.

“She regrets that matters has come to this point where it was necessary to bring a charge and to go through the trial. It’s very unfortunate,’’ Margolis said. “I think she feels that the jury has accepted the truth of her account of the events.”

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City Councilor Lydia Edwards, who has been championing the female firefighters, said her thoughts go out to the victim.

“She is a brave firefighter who had to stand up to the perpetrator,’’ Edwards said. “By speaking up, she gave voice to so many victims who suffer in silence. This needs to be the last time we are talking about city workers committing assault.”

The woman reported to police that the assault took place in the firehouse at 746 Centre St., in Jamaica Plain, when Sanchez confronted her and attempted to kiss her. She said he assaulted her when she tried to get away.

At the time, Finn and Mayor Martin J. Walsh said they took the allegations seriously. Sanchez was placed on administrative leave as the case was being adjudicated.

The incident put a spotlight on the plight of women firefighters who work in very close quarters with men, some of whom have behaved badly. At the time, there were only 16 in a force of 1,500, and 12 were black or Hispanic. The number of female firefighters remains unchanged today — at 16. Thirteen are women of color and there is one female chief, a spokesman for the department said.

In previous interviews with the Globe, current and former female firefighters described a pattern of harassment, discrimination, and sexism in the department. They say they have experienced unnecessary touching, disparaging comments, and isolation. The women who spoke to the Globe said they don’t often speak up because they don’t feel believed by the administration and feared being treated as though they had done something wrong.

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Their reports prompted the mayor to hire an outside counsel to review the department’s handling of harassment and discrimination allegations. Last year, the review found a “male-dominated” culture in the department that was resistant to change.

It found pervasive “locker room talk” and an unwelcoming culture toward women in the largely male ranks of the Fire Department and urged city officials to take several steps to boost the number of women on the force.


Meghan E. Irons can be reached at meghan.irons@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @meghanirons.