By Michael P. Norton
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
STATE HOUSE, BOSTON -- House members who arrived on Beacon Hill Wednesday for their first substantive session of 2014 were distracted first by a political meeting at a nearby hotel and then by the news that one of their colleagues was led away from a Medford courtroom in handcuffs and is headed to jail.
A standard pre-session caucus of House Democrats, usually an opportunity to be briefed on bills expected to emerge for floor votes, was canceled as some members were milling about the State House corridors.
The cancellation came as news broke about the conviction of Rep. Carlos Henriquez (D-Dorchester) on two assault and battery charges and his sentencing to 2.5 years in jail, with six months to be served.
Before the session, House Speaker Robert DeLeo and others on his leadership team were at the Omni Parker House Wednesday morning for a meeting of a political committee focused on electing Democrats to the House. As the House gaveled its session to a start at 1 p.m., DeLeo and other ranking House Democrats were still huddled at the downtown hotel. The House recessed its session, intending to return later in the afternoon. The political meeting broke up just before 1:30 p.m. and many of its attendees headed up Beacon Hill to the State House.
Meanwhile, Henriquez was led from a Medford courtroom in handcuffs after a jury convicted him on two assault and battery charges, and acquitted him on three other charges leveled against him by Middlesex County prosecutors in connection with a July 8, 2012 domestic violence incident.
According a staff person, attorneys for House Speaker Robert DeLeo are looking into whether House rules allow DeLeo to strip Henriquez of his official committee assignments.
If the Dorchester representative does not resign his House seat, House rules include provisions that enable members to move forward with censure or expulsion. Such an effort would need to follow a hearing and vote of the House Ethics Committee. The committee is without a chairman since Martin Walsh, its former chair, resigned to take office at City Hall. Rep. David Nangle, a Democrat from Lowell, is the committee's vice-chairman.
Several House Republicans quickly called on Henriquez to resign.
"Now that Representative Henriquez has had his day in court, it is time for him to leave this institution which should in no way condone violence against women," Third Assistant House Minority Leader Elizabeth Poirier of North Attleborough said in a statement released shortly after Judge Michele Hogan announced the sentence. "As elected officials, we must hold ourselves to the highest level of moral and ethical conduct. Mr. Henriquez has breached the trust of his colleagues and constituents, and his reprehensible actions will not be tolerated."
House Minority Leader Bradley Jones said, "The snide remark would be goodbye. And he should resign immediately."
Rep. George Peterson, a Republican from Grafton, said he hopes Henriquez resigns without being asked. "The charges were serious. He has now been found guilty by a jury of his peers. It's time that he should step down."
Massachusetts Republican Party Chair Kirsten Hughes issued the following statement: "The MassGOP calls on the state's leading Democrat, Governor Deval Patrick to immediately demand the resignation of Representative Carlos Henriquez. If the resignation is not tendered right away, there may not be adequate time for a special election and thus robbing the good people of Dorchester representation on Beacon Hill."
One House Democrat, who did not want to be identified, said, "If he was not a rep, he never would have been found guilty."
At the Medford courthouse where Henriquez was convicted and sentenced Wednesday, his defense attorney, Stephanie Soriano-Mills, said she could not speak to the issue of the representative's future in the House. Asked about her client's state following the verdict, Soriano-Mills described him as "strong."
(Andy Metzger, Matt Murphy and Colleen Quinn contributed reporting.)