Ethics committee votes to expel jailed Mass. repBy BOB SALSBERG and STEVE LeBLANC , Associated Press
Feb. 4, 2014 10:56 PM ET
BOSTON (AP) — The state House Ethics Committee recommended Tuesday that jailed Rep. Carlos Henriquez, who was convicted of assaulting a former girlfriend, be expelled.
Committee Vice Chairman Rep. David Nangle confirmed the decision after Henriquez met privately with the panel. The meeting lasted for about seven hours.
Nangle said the full House will vote Thursday on whether to accept the committee's report. If the report is accepted, Henriquez will be expelled immediately. A simple majority vote is needed.
Henriquez, a Boston Democrat, is serving a six-month jail sentence. He has resisted calls for his resignation from House Speaker Robert DeLeo, Gov. Deval Patrick and others.
He has the opportunity to address the House before Thursday's vote but wouldn't be allowed to vote and must leave the chamber before any vote is taken.
A lawyer for Henriquez said he has continued to represent his community while in custody.
The lawyer, Stephanie Soriano-Mills, also said the rule cited by the committee to expel Henriquez is designed to target members for financial improprieties and shouldn't have been applied in this case.
"They want to almost fit a square peg in a round hole," Soriano-Mills said after the hearing. "The conviction on two misdemeanor assault and batteries and the media frenzy that happened now caused the House to act on a rule that doesn't apply."
She said she didn't know if Henriquez would resign before the vote or seek to address the chamber Thursday.
Henriquez was led out of the committee hearing room in handcuffs and shackles and didn't respond when asked if he would resign.
Nangle, a Lowell Democrat, defended the committee's unanimous recommendation and said the hearings were conducted "in a fair and impartial manner."
Another member of the House committee, Hingham Democrat Garrett Bradley, said the committee properly applied the rule stating a member can't engage in activities that will substantially impair his or her independence of judgment.
"Clearly his conviction and incarceration have done that," Bradley said. "He cannot come to the Statehouse and vote, cannot handle matters within his district and has severely compromised his ability to be a representative."
Henriquez told the committee he never put his hands on his former girlfriend in a manner that would harm her, according to the report. But Nangle said Henriquez was vague when pressed on details about the encounter with her.
No one else was called to testify before the committee.
In a statement from Henriquez included in the committee's report, he said he is innocent. He said he considered domestic violence "a cowardly and shameful act" and he was "embarrassed to even be associated" with it.
Henriquez also said his reputation has been attacked and severely damaged.
"While I am deeply saddened by all that has transpired, it does not change the truth — the truth of my innocence," he said.
Somerset Democrat Patricia Haddad, another member of the committee, said the nature of Henriquez's conviction made it untenable for him to remain, especially if the House were to debate changes in domestic-violence laws.
It would be only the third time in more than a century that the House has expelled a member. The last legislator expelled was Joseph DiCarlo, a Revere Democrat, who was kicked out of the state Senate in 1977 after being convicted on federal corruption charges.
Tuesday marked the third time in recent weeks Henriquez had been escorted to the Statehouse to meet privately with the committee.
The panel has been holding highly secretive deliberations since DeLeo referred the matter to it on Jan. 15, when Henriquez was found guilty on two counts of assault and battery in connection with a July 2012 incident.
DeLeo, in a written statement Tuesday, said Henriquez "was convicted of serious charges by a jury" and violated House rules.
"I will vote to follow the committee's recommendation to expel him," DeLeo said.