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Ethics panel votes to expel Henriquez

The House Ethics Committee voted unanimously Tuesday night to recommend that lawmakers expel state Representative Carlos Henriquez, who is serving six months in jail for assaulting a woman.

The full House will probably vote as early as Thursday on whether to force Henriquez from the chamber. Henriquez appeared for more than six hours before the disciplinary panel Tuesday, his third stint before a committee whose proceedings are by rule secret.

The second-term Dorchester Democrat was convicted in January of holding down a woman and punching her in the chest when she refused to have sex with him. He is appealing, and his attorney has questioned the fairness of his trial, asserting that he was convicted by an all-white jury.

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House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo said in a press release after the Ethics Committee action that he would vote to expel Henriquez when the full chamber takes up the issue.

State Representative Garrett J. Bradley, a Hingham Democrat and a member of the committee, said that Henriquez, 37, spoke in his own defense before the panel, whose confidentiality rules expire once it issues a public report, as it did Tuesday after 8 p.m.

“He was given every opportunity to address the committee, and he did. He proclaimed that he was innocent,” Bradley said, adding that Henriquez said his ability to deliver his side of the story was limited because of the pending appeal.

Bradley said that House rules state that “if you engage in an activity that substantially impairs your independence or judgment, you’re in violation of the rule.”

Bradley said Henriquez’s imprisonment impinged on his ability to serve his constituents. “That’s not what the people pay him for, and that’s a violation of the rules,” Bradley said.

He said the committee reviewed photos of Henriquez’s victim that showed “very damaging black and blue marks on her torso and on her arms.”

The Dorchester lawmaker could appear on the floor to speak on his own behalf, a scenario not seen at the State House since 1977, when Senate majority leader Joseph DiCarlo delivered a passionate self-
defense on the floor of the Senate.

Henriquez exited the hearing room in handcuffs at 9 p.m. Surrounded by law enforcement officers, he showed no emotion and did not respond to shouted questions from reporters about whether he would resign.

In interviews, his constituents have given mixed opinions on whether Henriquez should continue to serve.

After the hearing, Stephanie Soriano-Mills, Henriquez’s attorney, said the committee had acted using a “rule that doesn’t apply,” saying “now they want to almost fit a square peg into a round hole.”

“The allegations, as they were, have been around for 18 months,” she said. “The House knew about them. Carlos has had a stellar record. He has voted. He has passed legislation.”

On Monday, the House set ground rules for a possible vote to discipline Henriquez. It approved a procedural order that includes an allowance for Henriquez to address his colleagues before they pass judgment.

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