BOSTON (CBS/AP) — The Massachusetts House voted to expel jailed state Rep. Carlos Henriquez on Thursday — something that has not happened in the chamber for nearly a century.
The vote was 146-5 to expel Henriquez. The chamber also struck down a proposal to merely censure Henriquez instead of ousting him.
Henriquez, who is serving a six-month jail sentence after being convicted last month of assaulting a former girlfriend in July 2012, said before the vote that he was innocent of the charges and rejected calls for him to resign.
“You may have thought, or think, that this could have been avoided if I resigned, but with all due respect, it is my strong belief that an innocent man does not plea, an innocent man does not quit,” he said.
Henriquez, who was brought to the capitol by sheriff’s deputies, has also questioned the fairness of his trial and sentence.
Henriquez wore a dark suit and wasn’t handcuffed during a six-minute speech to the packed chamber. He left the chamber immediately after speaking, and was not there for the vote.
Members of the House Ethics Committee said lawmakers need to be held to high standards and that Henriquez is unable to cast votes while incarcerated.
“As public officials … and especially as elected officials we are held to the highest level of scrutiny, as we should be,” said committee acting Chairman Rep. David Nangle.
A simple majority was needed for expulsion.
Henriquez has resisted calls for his resignation from House Speaker Robert DeLeo, Gov. Deval Patrick and Boston Mayor Martin Walsh, among others.
After weeks of secretive deliberations, the Ethics committee filed a report Tuesday night that found Henriquez violated a key House ethics rule and shouldn’t be allowed to keep his seat.
Henriquez’s attorney, Stephanie Soriano-Mills, said the rule as written is meant to apply to questionable financial transactions, not the current case. But the panel said in the report that the circumstances warrant the harsh punishment.
“Representative Henriquez’s obligation to serve six months in a house of correction substantially conflicts with and substantially impairs his independence of judgment,” the committee wrote.
The panel also said a request by Henriquez that he be granted a six-month leave of absence while serving his sentence was incompatible with House rules or the state constitution.
The last time a member of the House was expelled was in 1916, when Rep. Harry Foster was dismissed after an investigation found he “collected money from people interested in legislation now pending,” according to House records.
Henriquez, in a statement posted Wednesday on his Twitter account, said he was saddened by how quickly some turned their backs when the verdict was reached.
“What concerns me most is that if the community will do that to me, what chance do the poorer, less educated, or addicted black, Latino, white and Asian men and women have of returning home, needing a second chance to get back on their feet,” he said in his statement.
He also said the all-white makeup of the Cambridge District Court jury raised questions about the fairness of his trial. Henriquez was convicted of two assault charges and acquitted of three other charges.
The New England NAACP, in a statement Thursday morning, asked the House not to vote to expel Henriquez, citing his ongoing appeal. The organization also said it did not believe House rules allowed for a member to be expelled due to misdemeanor convictions.
“Delaying any decision on the House Ethics Committee’s recommendation at this time would allow for a fair process to take place, as required under the law,” the NAACP said.
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