Any parent can understand why Charlie Baker wants to avoid a public revisiting of allegations that his 24-year-old son, Andrew “A.J.” Baker, groped a woman on a plane.
But Baker is no ordinary parent. He’s the governor, and he has a higher duty to update the public regarding a federal investigation into those allegations. There’s no evidence at this time of any favoritism in how the matter was handled, but there’s mystery about the current status of the case.
At this point, if the governor knows what’s happening with the probe, he should say something. It’s hard to tell from the federal officials if the investigation is over. “While I cannot discuss this matter specifically, generally speaking the only way you would know the outcome of an investigation is if someone were charged,” said Christina Sterling, a spokeswoman for US Attorney Andrew E. Lelling. “It would not be publicly disclosed if there was insufficient evidence to charge.”
That’s considered standard protocol for federal investigations — or at least was, until former FBI director James Comey held his now-infamous press conference to announce that although there was insufficient evidence to prosecute Hillary Clinton, he still wanted the country to know she had been “extremely careless” in the way she handled her e-mail. Of course, A.J. Baker isn’t running for president. But because of who his father happens to be, there’s legitimate curiosity about the incident.
It began on June 20, with a transmission from JetBlue Flight 1354 about a problem as it approached Logan Airport: “Boston police, meet us at the gate at C-34,” a crew member said. “We have a customer that’s been groping one of the female passengers, so we need to have the police meet the aircraft at the gate, please.” Two days later, WBZ-TV broke the story that the person referred to in the transmission was Baker’s son.
According to a Globe report, a “visibly shaken” 29-year-old woman told State Police who first handled the incident that she was “touched inappropriately” by A.J. Baker, and that he only stopped after she asked a flight attendant to move her seat. One witness described seeing Baker “lean over” toward the woman “a couple of times.” Another said she heard the woman tell Baker, “Don’t do that.”
Baker, who was not charged with any crime, told police he was asleep the “whole time.” But a flight attendant reported speaking to him — which means he was awake at some point. Citing a Massachusetts law that says “all reports . . . of sexual assault . . . shall not be public,” the State Police have not released the full report.
The matter was transferred to Lelling’s office because the incident happened in the air and falls under federal jurisdiction. Moving it out of State Police hands also took away a political headache, given that the governor is their boss. Meanwhile, no one knows who was interviewed by investigators, or how hard they worked to track down witnesses from the June flight from Washington.
When the matter first became public, Baker described the allegations involving his son as “serious” and requiring “an independent review.” The governor said that his son would cooperate, but also called the incident “a personal matter.” Boston Herald columnist Howie Carr has hounded Baker on the topic, and when a Herald reporter recently asked the governor about it, he hopped into his state SUV without answering. A.J. Baker’s lawyer, Roberto Braceras, has also declined comment.
Baker did back a full investigation of the allegations. It’s time to be transparent with the results, when he knows them. Of course, Baker loves his son and wants to protect him. But given the governor’s trademark caution as he faces reelection this November, he may also be trying to protect himself from any negative fallout from this incident.