The Massachusetts House voted today to expel Representative Carlos Henriquez, a Dorchester Democrat who had been convicted on two counts of misdemeanor assault in a July 2012 attack on a woman he knew.
The House voted, 146-5, after about an hour and a half of debate that included Henriquez taking the floor to declare his innocence.
“The truth always remains the same. The truth is, I never touched my accuser in any way, at any point in time, that would result in harm or injury,” he said in remarks that lasted about six minutes. “Although a jury found me guilty ... it does not change my truth.”
Representative David Nangle of Lowell, vice chairman of the House Ethics Committee, speaking first, said Henriquez had violated the House’s code of ethics.
“He has failed to act prudently, and furthermore his recent criminal conviction indicates an impairment of judgment that is detrimental to the adequate representation of his constituency,” he said.
“Sometimes as legislators we must act with heavy hearts, but we still must act in the best interests of the constituents of the entire Commonwealth,” he said.
He also said, “We cannot lose sight that there’s a victim involved.”
The House rejected a bid by Representative Russell Holmes to reduce Henriquez’s punishment. That measure would have called for Henriquez’s censure, allowing him to keep his seat. The amendment died on a 143-10 vote.
Holmes had argued that Henriquez, while in the Middlesex County House of Corrections, had reviewed the rules governing the House, and found that he had not violated any.
“He read them,” Holmes said. “You didn’t.”
But House leaders argued for the integrity of the institution, insisted that Henriquez’s confinement would prevent him from discharging the duties of his office, and repeatedly urged colleagues to look at photos of the victim’s body, which were available outside the House chamber. The photos, they said, showed multiple black-and-blue marks on her chest, torso and arms.
“I was mortified when I saw the pictures,” Nangle said. “I had a sick feeling in my stomach.”
No lawmaker had been expelled from the House since 1916. The last state lawmaker forced out of either chamber was Senate Majority Leader Joseph DiCarlo in 1977.
During his remarks, Henriquez pointedly did not directly ask lawmakers how to vote, instead telling them, “You may have thought, or think, this could have all been avoided if I resigned. With all due respect, it is my strong belief that an innocent man does not plead, and an innocent man does not quit. Your vote today does not decide my innocence or guilt. It does not determine morality or the truth.”
Henriquez was led out of the chamber by security personnel after his speech.
The five members who voted against expulsion were Gloria L. Fox of Roxbury, Holmes of Mattapan, Denise Provost of Somerville, Carl Sciortino of Medford, and Benjamin Swan of Springfield.
The expulsion vote capped three weeks of high emotion and drama in the House. Henriquez appeared three times before the Ethics Committee. Each time he was led handcuffed to a State House hearing room.
Leading political figures — including Governor Deval Patrick, House Speaker Robert DeLeo, and Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh — had called on Henriquez to resign.
Henriquez’s attorney, Stephanie Soriano-Mills, had argued that an all-white Middlesex County jury did not constitute a jury of Henriquez’s peers.
The NAACP this morning urged the House to hold off from taking up the measure that would expel Henriquez, a second-term lawmaker.
"Representative Henriquez was duly elected by the electorate and there is no legal basis upon which the House of Representatives can properly act," the New England chapter of the civil rights group said, arguing that Henriquez had not violated existing House rules and that his conviction is under appeal.
Henriquez was convicted Jan. 15 of two misdemeanor charges, stemming from an episode in July 2012 when he held down and punched a woman who refused to have sex with him.
A judge sentenced him to serve six months of a 2 1/2-year sentence in the Middlesex County House of Correction, with the remainder of the sentence suspended.