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Charlie Baker’s team now pushing for a ‘more narrow’ dangerousness compromise

EOPSS willing to meet 'whenever and wherever'

Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito appears to choke up with emotion as she speaks after listening to a panel of survivors in the State Library on Monday, July 25, 2022. SAM DORAN/SHNS
Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito appears to choke up with emotion as she speaks after listening to a panel of survivors in the State Library on Monday, July 25, 2022. SAM DORAN/SHNS

The Baker administration will not let its proposal to overhaul criminal dangerousness hearings fade away quietly.

After lawmakers spiked the measure for the third straight term, a top Gov. Charlie Baker deputy pitched an eleventh-hour compromise to the Judiciary Committee chairs who said they were unsatisfied with previous negotiations or unconvinced a deal was ever on the table, offering to meet “whenever and wherever” to get something across the finish line.

Public Safety and Security Secretary Terrence Reidy emailed Rep. Mike Day and Sen. Jamie Eldridge on Tuesday night, outlining a smaller-scale option that he said would maintain key sections of the dangerousness bill while dropping others that featured among concerns legislators and civil rights advocates raised.

Reidy did not attach a bill text, but listed five bullet points he suggested as a “more narrow proposal,” including expanding the list of “serious criminal offenses” that allow prosecutors to request a dangerousness hearing — which can lead to a suspect’s detention — to include sex offenses involving children and human trafficking.

His outline also suggested making it a felony offense to destroy a court-ordered GPS device, allowing a detention order to extend until the conclusion of a case while subject to speedy trial requirements, permitting a prosecutor to move for a dangerousness hearing at any point rather than just at the time of arraignment, and requiring victims to be notified before a prison releases someone charged with a crime eligible for a dangerousness hearing.

Reidy’s latest offer appears not to include sections requiring all people arrested to get fingerprinted, not just those arrested on felony charges, or allowing prosecutors to seek detention of suspects for any past conviction regardless of how much time had elapsed.

“This compromise is significantly slimmed down from the original bill and would retain the elements of the Governor’s bill most critical to protecting survivors and the public, while setting aside provisions that we have heard merit further discussion,” Reidy wrote in the email, which was obtained by the News Service.

Via a spokesperson, Day said Wednesday that he is reviewing Reidy’s message and has “no comment at this time.” Eldridge did not respond to multiple inquiries.

Baker filed the latest version of his dangerousness bill (H 4290) in December after two previous versions in which it failed to emerge for votes, and the Judiciary Committee voted Friday to send the measure to a study that effectively dooms its chances of passage in the 2021-2022 lawmaking session.

Nine unspecified lawmakers on the committee supported the study order, and three others reserved their rights, opting not to take a definitive stance, according to Day’s office. Four named lawmakers dissented: Republican Rep. Alyson Sullivan, Democrat Rep. Colleen Garry, Democrat Sen. Cynthia Creem and Democrat Sen. John Velis.

Day and Eldridge, who were joined in opposing the bill by groups such as the ACLU of Massachusetts, said they were concerned the proposal would subject criminal defendants to unnecessary detention and hamstring ongoing criminal justice reforms.

Both Democrats left the door open for some kind of future action without indicating what they would support or when they hoped to produce a bill.

Reidy pointed to the four committee members opposed to killing the dangerousness bill and noted that several other lawmakers, including Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr, joined Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito at a Monday event highlighting the legislation.

“These signs of support show there is still momentum in both Democratic and Republican Caucuses behind this bill, and we remain hopeful we can get something done,” he wrote. “This bill is too important to let it die this session. We are willing to meet with you whenever and wherever to get a compromise done on this.”

On Monday, as Baker and Polito gathered with survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault to lament the bill’s fate, the Judiciary Committee’s chairs gave somewhat divergent accounts of how deliberations with the administration unfolded.

“While we attempted to work seriously with members of the Administration to deliver a bill that actually does what this Administration purports it does, many of our concerns were not meaningfully addressed, as evidenced in the committee’s vote,” Day said in a Monday statement.

Eldridge, meanwhile, said the executive branch’s outreach “was not a conversation around a narrower bill” in comments that Baker slammed as a “blatant misrepresentation.”

“It was a pretty consistent PR campaign to pass the whole bill,” Eldridge told the News Service on Monday. “I did not speak to Gov. Baker on this bill this session. He did not call me. I did not get the perception that a compromise bill was considered acceptable.”

In his email to the chairs, Reidy said the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security “prioritized meetings with Chair Day” because Baker’s bill was filed in the House and not in the Senate.

Administration officials met with Day’s office “several times,” Reidy said, where they “answered questions, provided potential language changes, discussed further language changes, agreed to the removal of entire sections of the bill in instances where Chairman Day’s Office indicated that there wasn’t a path forward and followed up with requests for clarification on existing statute.”

“In EOPSS’s final meeting with Chairman Day’s Office, EOPSS asked if there was anything further they could provide to answer any concerns. Chairman Day’s Office indicated that there wasn’t and also indicated that there was a path forward with the bill,” Reidy wrote to Day and Eldridge, noting that the administration has testified about the bill at hearings in three different sessions. “This is why it was disheartening to see in media reports that you felt you had not received enough outreach from the administration on the bill or that your concerns with the legislation were not addressed meaningfully.”

Baker filed his latest dangerousness bill alongside his third pass at another criminal justice matter: explicitly prohibiting dissemination of sexually explicit images and videos without a subject’s consent, often referred to as “revenge porn.”

Massachusetts is one of only two states without a clear ban in place, supporters of action say. The House in May unanimously approved its version of a revenge porn prohibition bill, and Senate leaders have not given any indication if they plan to tackle the measure.

“Probably, it’s a case where law enforcement and, with all due respect, media have been very, very laser-focused on this even though it’s not a particularly severe problem in Massachusetts,” Eldridge said Monday when asked why lawmakers have hesitated to act.

His comments drew incendiary criticism from a pair of women who testified at a Judiciary Committee hearing in January on Baker’s bill.

“Until Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Jamie Eldridge experiences the life-ruining pain and suffering caused by revenge porn, and the stares, mockery and whispers from those in your community who have seen your private, sexual images without your consent, he would do well to not dismiss that trauma as ‘not a particularly severe problem in Massachusetts,’” the women, who asked to be identified only as Kelly S. and Sandy H., said in a statement acquired by the News Service.

“Those of us whose lives have been permanently destroyed, with no legal recourse to achieve the justice we deserve, would certainly beg to differ. Chairman Eldridge’s words are appalling and an insult to survivors and their families, and we are horrified by his lack of compassion,” they added.

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