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Rep. Carlos Henriquez was led away in handcuffs Wednesday after being found guilty by a jury in a domestic violence case stemming from an early morning rendezvous in Arlington Heights during the summer of 2012.
Henriquez, a Dorchester Democrat in his second term, was found guilty in Cambridge District Court of two counts of assault and battery, and was acquitted on an additional count of assault and battery, witness intimidation and larceny of a SIM card.
After the six-person jury delivered their verdict at noon Wednesday, Judge Michele Hogan said she was “very concerned that you’re not remorseful” and sentenced Henriquez to two and a half years in a house of correction, with six months of the sentence to be served and the rest to be suspended.
Court officers handcuffed Henriquez and led him out of court as the lawmaker looked ahead. Henriquez’s older brother and a woman who previously identified herself as a friend were present for the sentencing.
Despite the efforts of his attorney to highlight discrepancies in the accounts of Katherine Gonzalves, 25, the jury largely believed the young woman who took the stand on the fourth day and the morning of the fifth and final day of the trial.
“I remember being back-handed; I remember being held down; I remember being punched; I remember being held down,” Gonzalves said in her second day on the stand. She said she entered the lawmaker’s car with no keys, no purse, no money, only her cellphone.
Defense attorney Stephanie Soriano-Mills said she was “shocked” by the verdict and the “harsh sentence based on someone who has no record,” and said she “absolutely” believes they will appeal. She said there were multiple “missteps” in the trial, and said he might at some point be “vindicated altogether.”
Soriano-Mills noted that the jury disagreed with much of Gonzalves’ account, acquitting Henriquez of three charges.
The Middlesex jury of four women and two men found Henriquez, 37, had attacked Gonzalves in the back of a rental car parked down the street of her mother’s house around 3 a.m. on July 8, 2012.
Gonzalves testified that Henriquez became angry once she told him she could not go with him that night, and that he back-handed her across the face, punched her three times in the chest and choked her. She said the two had been texting earlier, and after attending a block party, Henriquez agreed to meet with her to have sex. Her mother stopped her on the way out of the house and told her not to leave with a man at that hour.
After the alleged assault in the back seat, Gonzalves said Henriquez drove off and she said she was initially unable to escape from the back of the vehicle, described as a Honda Insight rented through Zipcar.
Gonzalves eventually jumped out of the vehicle at the intersection of Forsyth Street and Huntington Avenue in Boston, and made her way to Northeastern’s White Hall at about 4:18 a.m.
“None of this happened,” said Soriano-Mills after the trial. She said Gonzalves entered Henriquez’s car, and said, “She was unhappy, perhaps intoxicated, unhappy that the status of the relationship wasn’t where she wanted it to be. She then did not want to get out. Carlos drove home, and at some point she got out.”
Henriquez will serve his sentence at the Billerica House of Correction and will spend two years on probation during the suspended portion of his sentence, Soriano-Mills said.
“I don’t believe that same sentence may have been given to other defendants that come before this court,” Soriano-Mills told reporters.
Hogan also ordered Henriquez to complete a batterers program and stay away from Gonzalves.
“You’re a successful charismatic young man. You’re a pillar in the community. People admire you; they voted for you. They trust you; they trust your judgment. You’re a leader in that community and beyond,” the judge said before announcing the sentence. “There’s much too much domestic violence in this country, in this community. A woman and her word are to be respected. When a woman tells you she does not want to have sex, that means ‘I do not want to have sex.’ And after she says that you don’t hit her, you don’t punch her, you don’t take her on a ride she doesn’t want to go on.”
Hogan was nominated to the bench by Gov. Paul Cellucci, receiving approval from the Governor’s Council on Dec. 30, 1998, after receiving the endorsement of then-House Speaker Tom Finneran; then-prosecutor Andrea Cabral, who is now in the governor’s cabinet; Judge Paul Leary, who presides in Roxbury District Court; and then-Rep. David Donnelly, now a judge presiding in Brighton. Before her judgeship, Hogan, 63, was a Suffolk County prosecutor assigned to the Roxbury court, and before that was in private practice and a Belmont Town Meeting member, according to records in the council offices.
“Judge sent strong message by immediately sentencing and taking him into custody,” Massachusetts Bar Association chief legal counsel Martin Healy said in an email. “She had discretion to sentence at later date or place him on conditions to ensure his appearance at later court dates. Judge is known as a no nonsense practical jurist.”
Midway into the jury’s deliberations, the judge changed her instructions regarding one of the assault and battery counts, for allegedly grabbing Gonzalves by the neck and holding her down. After initially saying the jury must find that Henriquez both held her down and grabbed her by the neck, Hogan revised her instruction Wednesday morning, permitting the jurors to find him guilty if he did either of those actions.
Soriano-Mills said those changed instructions and the surprise discovery of a police report during a police officer’s testimony would be part of an appeal.
Henriquez was acquitted of hitting Gonzalves in the face, and found guilty of holding her down and hitting her in the chest.
Soriano-Mills had highlighted discrepancies between accounts Gonzalves had given to Northeastern, Boston and Arlington police and detectives, which included different timelines, alternating accounts of how Gonzalves retrieved her cell phone after Henriquez allegedly took it from her, and two versions of why she told Henriquez she was recording him with her phone.
Soriano-Mills was also critical of the police-work on the case, questioning why no effort had been made to speak with Gonzalves’ mother, or her Somerville roommate who was present when Boston detectives interviewed her. Arlington Inspector Edward DeFrancisco, who took the lead on the case, said he drove by the site of the alleged attack but did not exit his car or canvas the neighborhood to determine if any neighbors had heard Gonzalves’ screams that summer night.
Born and raised in Roxbury, Henriquez lives in Dorchester, where he is a tenant in his older brother’s house. On his legislative Web page, Henriquez is described as active in the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative. In a July 2012 statement he said, “I was raised by a strong mother and also raised with a younger sister both of whom I respect and love deeply. My father, Julio Henriquez, who recently passed was a track coach and mentor to hundreds of young women from this community and I have dedicated myself to protecting women, not abusing or assaulting them.”
The small residential area where the incident took place is known in Arlington as Little Scotland because the tight grouping of streets have Scottish names, according to local historian Richard Duffy.
Henriquez was arrested at 6:30 a.m. Sunday, July 8, 2012 at his home in Dorchester. The lawmaker, who was first elected in 2010, issued a statement proclaiming his innocence soon after the arrest and has since declined to comment on the issue.
The charges of assault and battery and witness intimidation carry a maximum sentence of two and a half years in a house of correction. Larceny under $250 has a maximum sentence of a year in a house of correction.
“Putting my hands on a woman is contradictory to my upbringing and my own morals,” Henriquez said in his July 2012 statement. “As both a community activist prior to getting elected and as an elected official I have spoken with hundreds of youth and adults about the problem of violence against women. I have worked tirelessly with multiple agencies and organizations who champion against the issue of domestic violence. It is a mission I am committed to in my personal and public life.”
Gonzalves held a press conference after Henriquez’s declaration of innocence and after receiving a “barrage” of phone calls from the news media. Gonzalves, who gave hours of testimony, was not present for the verdict.
While the trial was underway, the Massachusetts Democratic Party declined to comment on the circumstances.
"If these allegations prove true, then Mr. Henriquez should resign immediately and ensure the good people he represents have time to replace him this year,” Massachusetts Republican Party Executive Director Rob Cunningham said in a statement before the verdict. “The behavior exhibited by this representative, regardless of the outcome of the trial, shows a disturbing decision-making process that is not becoming of the office he has been elected to. I'm glad he doesn't represent me, and I bet there are plenty of people in his district embarrassed that he speaks for them."
Speaker Robert DeLeo on Tuesday said he could not comment on the ongoing trial when asked for his thoughts Tuesday.
“I really can’t, cause I mean, I see what I read, you know, in the papers,” DeLeo told the News Service Tuesday. “I think that, you know, right now it’s in the judicial system. I think it ought to see what happens there and let it play out.”
Following Wednesday’s conviction and sentencing, and after several Republican lawmakers called for Henriquez to resign, DeLeo said the representative should strongly consider resigning and if he does not, he would ask the House Ethics Committee to consider disciplinary action.
Veteran Rep. Frank Smizik (D-Brookline) said he wasn’t certain about how Henriquez would be treated. “It’s very sad. I like him and he was going to be a good rep, but if he has to leave, he has to leave,” he said.
Colleen Quinn, Mike Deehan and Matt Murphy contributed reporting.