After almost a year vacancy, Massachusetts will officially have a U.S. attorney next week. But it does not appear that the federal government will provide her with the additional security she requested after receiving threats.
Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins submitted her resignation letter to Gov. Charlie Baker on Wednesday. She is expected to be sworn in as U.S. attorney at the Moakley Courthouse on Monday, becoming the first Black woman to hold the office.
Making history has created controversy for Rollins who says she has received threats since her nomination.
"As the first woman to ever have my job and as a woman of color and, in particular, a Black woman, there have been a very significant uptick in horrific gender-based and race-based hate threats that I'm receiving," Rollins said during an interview with WBUR last month.
Dozens of faith leaders from around New England are calling on the federal government to provide security to Rollins and her family because of threats. They sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland asking that Rollins be provided a full-time security detail immediately.
"We feel that in these times where we've got so much deep political turmoil, social unrest and and divisions around racial lines that the threats that have been directed towards attorney Rollins deserve special consideration," said Rev. Jeffrey Brown, associate pastor of 12th Baptist Church, in Roxbury. "And we can't wait for something to happen in order for us to to get some help from the federal government on her behalf and on her family's behalf. We need to be more proactive in responding to whatever threats that are happening to all of our leaders that that are dealing with this and particularly women of color."
The U.S. Marshals Office, which provides security for federal officials, did not respond to a request for comment.
Gov. Baker has named Massachusetts Sex Offender Registry Board Chairman Kevin Hayden, a former Suffolk County prosecutor, to serve as acting Suffolk district attorney until this fall's election. He will official take over as Suffolk DA on Monday.
“Kevin Hayden is a dedicated public servant with a proven record of commitment to equitable justice and community engagement, and I am confident he will serve the families of Suffolk County as a respectful, collaborative and compassionate partner as District Attorney,” the governor said in a statement.
In her resignation letter to Baker, Rollins said that when the voters of Suffolk County elected her in 2018, they were endorsing "a new vision for public safety" that diverts "overwhelming attention away from non-serious, non-violent crimes" to focus on more significant criminal activity. She said with violent crime down in Boston, her policies have proven to be effective and she urged the Republican governor to choose an interim DA with views similar to hers.
"Required skills for this position now include: a trauma-informed, data-driven, and evidence-based approach to prosecution; showing up and engaging with every single neighborhood that makes up Suffolk County, including Chelsea, Revere and Winthrop; and recognizing that significant disparities still exist in the criminal legal system," Rollins letter said. "We cannot move backwards. The people of Suffolk County deserve what they voted for."
The U.S. Senate narrowly confirmed Rollins to the post last month after much debate about her criminal justice reform policies. Several Republican senators said her views were "radical" and that she was trying to "destroy the criminal justice system from within." They particularly took issue with Rollins' list of lower-level crimes for which she said her office would sometimes seek alternatives to prosecution.
But dozens of supporters wrote to senators on her behalf, including prominent Massachusetts Republicans, Democrats and nonpartisan law enforcement officials and members of the legal community. They said that Rollins has worked with law enforcement and has been effective in fighting crime in Suffolk County.
Rollins replaces former Massachusetts U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling, a Trump appointee who left office in February 2021.