What is Carlos Henriquez waiting for?
The clock is ticking on his opportunity to show that he cares about the interests of the people of the Fifth Suffolk District.
It’s been nearly a week now since the Dorchester lawmaker was convicted of assaulting a woman who had dared to refuse to have sex with him. She was a college student who met him working on a class project; somehow she ended up assaulted and stranded on the side of the road at 4 a.m. after jumping out of his car. Henriquez didn’t testify or make any statement after the verdict.
A judge sentenced him to six months in the Suffolk County House of Correction with the words, “When a woman tells you she doesn’t want to have sex, that means she does not want to have sex.”
When someone asked me shortly after conviction what would happen next, I blithely replied that there would be a special election. I simply took for granted that Henriquez would resign, setting the stage for choosing a replacement. Every politician who isn’t Chuck Turner quits upon conviction, and some leave even before they are tried. Even fallen pols understand that you can’t effectively perform any part of the job from a jail cell.
Why does it matter? Because as important business is looming, his district is effectively without representation. Yes, his staff is still on the job, ostensibly to perform constituent services. But that is less than half the job of a state representative. And they can’t even do that effectively without a boss they are working on behalf of and speaking for. Make no mistake, his constituents are now voiceless on Beacon Hill. It’s utterly intolerable.
Henriquez’s attorney, Stephanie Soriano-Mills said Tuesday that her client has not said whether he will resign. “His major concern is that his constituents are represented and making sure that the business of the House moves forward without distraction,” she said.
Henriquez plans to appeal his conviction. That’s his right, but his pursuit of an appeal raises the terrible prospect that he plans to hang on until it’s denied or even until he gets out of jail. Either would rate a high place in the annals of political selfishness. The fate of his constituents should not be tethered to his long-shot appeal.
The House, of course, can kick him out. But the Ethics Committee process is opaque and convoluted. The committee would have to conduct its own investigation of Henriquez’s misbehavior. Sure, the trial transcript could substantially shorten that process. But the fact is, a convicted criminal shouldn’t have to be expelled.
On the assumption that Henriquez will eventually quit, some candidates are already seriously pondering bids for the seat. Among them are the perennial candidates Althea Garrison and Roy Owens.
I have never taken either of them any more seriously than the voters who routinely reject them. But let’s give them this: Either of them would be vastly preferable to Carlos Henriquez, if only because they can actually go to work.
Other candidates are also pondering runs, raising the welcome prospect of a robust special election. No better way for the district to turn the page, politically speaking.
By all appearances, Henriquez never expected to go to jail. As a first-time offender, he almost certainly could have cut a deal for a lighter sentence than he received, as people do every day. Heaven knows why he expected exoneration, but his worst-case scenario is now his reality. It’s time to own up to it and allow his constituents to move on.
Henriquez is only 35, and perhaps he or those around him believe he can salvage a political future. I strongly suspect they are wrong, but his future is his business.
It’s his present that’s the problem right now. Thousands of residents of Dorchester and Roxbury are represented by a man in jail.
This just can’t stand. Henriquez has to go. Now.