Arroyo pushes back on sexual assault allegations

Suffolk DA's race turning into a mudslinging slugfest

THE SUFFOLK DISTRICT ATTORNEY’S race is quickly turning into a low-level mash-up of “The West Wing” and “House of Cards,” complete with competing accusations of campaign skullduggery and sudden reversals of fortune.

In a Wednesday afternoon press briefing, Ricardo Arroyo, a Boston city councilor locked in an increasingly rancorous Democratic primary showdown with current district attorney Kevin Hayden, repeated his denial that he ever sexually assaulting anyone, and said again that he was never aware of any such allegations until asked about them by the Boston Globe in the days leading up to the bombshell story the paper posted Tuesday afternoon.

But the briefing began with a statement by an attorney representing one of the two women at the center of the allegations, who charged that a private investigator connected to Hayden was part of an orchestrated effort to smear Arroyo. The attorney then said her client not only denies that Arroyo ever assaulted her, but the woman portrayed by the Globe as a possible victim of rape by Arroyo is now endorsing him. 

The developments follow a Globe story reporting that a high school classmate of Arroyo’s reported to police in 2005 that Arroyo pressured her on several occasions to perform oral sex. In 2007, the paper said, a second teenager reported to police that “she believed Arroyo may have raped her after she got inebriated at a party,” according to records the Globe obtained. The paper said both cases were investigated, and neither led to any charges. 

Arroyo, 34, said he has no intention of dropping out of the race or resigning his council seat over the revelations. But the report has already prompted defections among prominent backers of his campaign, with former congressman Joe Kennedy III and City Council President Ed Flynn rescinding their endorsements. Iron Workers Local 7 also pulled back its endorsement of Arroyo, according to Politico’s Lisa Kashinsky

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu, one of Arroyo’s most prominent supporters, called the allegations “troubling,” but held back any decision on whether she’ll maintain or withdraw her endorsement, according to the Dorchester Reporter. “We’ll see how this story evolves,” she said.  

“I want to begin by assuring the public that I never assaulted anyone,” Arroyo said in his brief remarks to reporters before taking a handful of questions in a bare room next door to his Jamaica Plain campaign headquarters. “Until a week ago, I’d never been informed there were any such complaints ever made.” He went on to say he was “never questioned by Boston Public School officials, the Boston Police Department, or anyone relative to any such investigations.” 

The Globe said in the 2005 case that a police report shows that two detectives visited Arroyo’s childhood home and spoke with his mother. The paper said Arroyo was not home, but that he spoke with one of the detectives that evening by phone, and said he planned to retain a lawyer. 

Whether Arroyo knew of the investigations is important, because in applying for his law license in 2014, he said he had never been the subject of an investigation of any misdemeanor or felony crime, according to the Globe. Misrepresenting such information could lead to sanctions, including suspension of a law license.  

The Globe said it obtained police and school reports related to the two cases – but not the full files themselves – “from someone who had copies of the records.” 

Arroyo’s camp sought to turn the focus of the story from the sexual assault allegations to the release of information from the cases, and accused Hayden’s office of leaking the material.

“What has now become clear is that the current district attorney or an official working on his behalf, just weeks before this election, has selectively and illegally leaked incomplete information to the media,” Arroyo said. 

Brigite Melo-Cronin, an attorney who said she was representing the woman from the 2007 case, read a statement at the press briefing from the woman, who, the Globe reported, was 16 at the time she told police she thought she had been sexually assaulted by Arroyo, then 19. 

“Ricardo Arroyo has never assaulted me,” Melo-Cronin said, reading the statement from the woman, who has asked not to be identified. “I believe the Hayden campaign is intentionally using me to assassinate the character of Ricardo Arroyo, who has never been anything but a friend to me.” 

According to her statement, in July, before the Globe contacted her regarding the story, the woman said she was contacted by a private investigator and former Boston police officer named Brian T. Gill. “He told me and my father that I was going to be a part of a political scandal based on information he had from his associates,” Melo-Cronin quoted her as saying. “I believe that he is associated with the Hayden campaign. It is clear to me that the only person who benefits from this illegal leak, this lie, and this political scandal, as Brian Gill put it, is Kevin Hayden.” 

Gill, whose office is based in Hanover, did not return a phone message on Wednesday afternoon. 

Brigite Melo-Cronin, an attorney representing the woman at the center of a 2007 sexual assault investigation of Ricardo Arroyo, reads a statement from her client to reporters. (Photo by Michael Jonas)

Hayden’s office denied releasing information from the cases. “In accordance with state law, we do not release sexual assault investigation files,” said spokesman James Borghesani. 

Hayden’s campaign slammed Arroyo over the leak accusation. 

“In the recent Globe story, Ricardo Arroyo was clearly caught lying multiple times to reporters as he made seemingly frantic attempts to cover up the disturbing accusations against him,” a Hayden campaign spokesperson said in a statement. “In the statement he put out after the fact, he continued to change his story. Now he is tossing out completely false and unfounded accusations in order to deflect from his own misconduct.” 

Arroyo, who comes from a well known political family whose members have appeared on local ballots for decades, appeared to have solid momentum heading into the September 6 primary. He has piled up endorsements from up and down the political ladder, with both of the state’s US senators, Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey, supporting him, along with Wu, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley, six of his council colleagues, and officials in Chelsea and Revere. 

Hayden, a veteran prosecutor who was appointed to the post in January by Gov. Charlie Baker when Rachael Rollins resigned to become US attorney, has never before run for office.

The DA’s office is in charge of prosecuting all criminal cases across Suffolk County, which consists of Boston, Chelsea, Revere, and Winthrop. 

The controversy swirling around Arroyo comes less than three weeks after Hayden found himself in the unflattering spotlight. A Globe story raised questions about Hayden’s handling of a case involving two Transit Police officers, one of whom has been alleged to have written up a false report after pulling a gun on a driver and another of whom is said to have provided false statements backing up his fellow officer. 

T police officials have called for the officers to be prosecuted. But the Globe reported that Hayden’s top assistant told a lawyer for one of the officers that the office would not pursue any charges against him. A lawyer for the other officer said he was told his client was unlikely to face charges. The Globe said Hayden’s office offered three different explanations of what happened. Hayden insists that no decisions on prosecution have been made and that the case remains open. 

The increasingly bitter DA’s race is likely to spill over and bring plenty of tension to the Boston city council. 

Meet the Author

Michael Jonas

Executive Editor, CommonWealth

About Michael Jonas

Michael Jonas has worked in journalism in Massachusetts since the early 1980s. Before joining the CommonWealth staff in early 2001, he was a contributing writer for the magazine for two years. His cover story in CommonWealth's Fall 1999 issue on Boston youth outreach workers was selected for a PASS (Prevention for a Safer Society) Award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.

Michael got his start in journalism at the Dorchester Community News, a community newspaper serving Boston's largest neighborhood, where he covered a range of urban issues. Since the late 1980s, he has been a regular contributor to the Boston Globe. For 15 years he wrote a weekly column on local politics for the Boston Sunday Globe's City Weekly section.

Michael has also worked in broadcast journalism. In 1989, he was a co-producer for "The AIDS Quarterly," a national PBS series produced by WGBH-TV in Boston, and in the early 1990s, he worked as a producer for "Our Times," a weekly magazine program on WHDH-TV (Ch. 7) in Boston.

Michael lives in Dorchester with his wife and their two daughters.

About Michael Jonas

Michael Jonas has worked in journalism in Massachusetts since the early 1980s. Before joining the CommonWealth staff in early 2001, he was a contributing writer for the magazine for two years. His cover story in CommonWealth's Fall 1999 issue on Boston youth outreach workers was selected for a PASS (Prevention for a Safer Society) Award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.

Michael got his start in journalism at the Dorchester Community News, a community newspaper serving Boston's largest neighborhood, where he covered a range of urban issues. Since the late 1980s, he has been a regular contributor to the Boston Globe. For 15 years he wrote a weekly column on local politics for the Boston Sunday Globe's City Weekly section.

Michael has also worked in broadcast journalism. In 1989, he was a co-producer for "The AIDS Quarterly," a national PBS series produced by WGBH-TV in Boston, and in the early 1990s, he worked as a producer for "Our Times," a weekly magazine program on WHDH-TV (Ch. 7) in Boston.

Michael lives in Dorchester with his wife and their two daughters.

Arroyo and two of his council colleagues, Kendra Lara and Tania Fernandes Anderson, called on Hayden to resign over his office’s handling of the alleged coverup by T police officers. Lara and Anderson are both supporting Arroyo’s campaign for DA, and Lara appeared behind him at Wednesday’s briefing. 

Meanwhile, City Councilor Erin Murphy, who has endorsed Hayden, on Wednesday decried the staying power of “rape culture” and called on Arroyo to drop out of the race and resign his council seat.