O’Keefe jumps jurisdictions with charges against Rollins
Cape DA unloads on Boston’s new prosecutor
THE STATE’S DISTRICT ATTORNEYS are generally in the business of bringing charges against alleged criminal offenders, not against each other.
But Cape and Islands DA Michael O’Keefe’s op-ed in yesterday’s Boston Globe amounted to a full-on indictment of fellow DA Rachael Rollins, who was elected Suffolk County’s top prosecutor last fall.
O’Keefe unloads on a new category of prosecutor he dubs the “social justice district attorney.” Though he never mentions Rollins by name, there is no mistaking the target of his charges.
He disparages this new breed of social justice candidate for DA who makes “grand pronouncements and, as here in Boston, proclaims that entire categories of crime will no longer be prosecuted.”
Rollins has actually been far less than absolute in applying the policy, a fact that has earned some pushback from advocates looking for the wholesale change she campaigned on.
But if Rollins has disappointed some by going too slowly, she’s been aggressive enough in calling for change that O’Keefe’s broadside isn’t the first attack on her from a fellow law enforcement official.
Early last month, Rollins got into a nasty dust-up with the Baker administration after it released publicly a letter to her from Public Safety Secretary Thomas Turco criticizing the do-not-prosecute policy. Rollins hit back hard in defending her policy. She even invoked the case involving allegations that Gov. Charlie Baker’s son groped a fellow passenger on an airline flight — an incident for which no charges have been filed — saying, “not everyone gets the benefit of the Baker family when they have interacted with the criminal justice system.”
There has long been a strong bond among the state’s 11 district attorneys. They are the frontline face of the criminal justice system, the ones who apply state law in the hundreds of day-to-day matters that land in court, and the DAs often form a united front in speaking out on proposed changes to criminal statutes on Beacon Hill or on other policy matters.
Sometimes that consensus is broken. Last year, for example, two of the 11 DAs — Middlesex DA Marian Ryan and Northwestern DA David Sullivan — did not sign a letter the other nine submitted that was critical of the Senate version of Beacon Hill’s big criminal justice reform legislation.
But that’s a far cry from sending a direct shot across the bow of a fellow DA, as O’Keefe has done.
The veteran Republican DA’s op-ed amounted to a full-throated defense of the criminal justice system status quo, arguing that attacks on the system for demographic disparities in incarceration are entirely misplaced.
Rollins has repeatedly pointed out that her views were made clear on the campaign trail, and that voters spoke clearly as well. She has yet to respond to O’Keefe, but it’s safe to assume she views Barnstable County more as a getaway for beach and barbeque than a place from which to take direction on running the Suffolk DA’s office.