Hodgson puts Healey report ‘down the sewer pipe’

Sheriff, AG don’t see eye to eye on May 1 incident

BRISTOL COUNTY Sheriff Thomas Hodgson said on Wednesday he had no interest in following any of the recommendations contained in a report released by Attorney General Maura Healey that faulted his handling of a violent incident between his officers and immigrant detainees on May 1.

“It’s about halfway down the sewer pipe,” Hodgson said of the report. “That’s about how much value I put into the attorney general’s recommendations that are politically motivated.”

During the 45-minute press conference at his Dartmouth office, Hodgson called Healey “a political hack” and said “she writes these outrageous sorts of reports as a way to try to get notoriety for what her political aspirations are.” He called on her to resign.

Hodgson, a Republican, served as the honorary chairman of President Trump’s  Massachusetts re-election effort. He’s been vocal in how his views on immigration align with the president’s and even suggested that he’d be open to sending inmates to the southern border to help build the border wall.

Healey’s report said Hodgson and his correctional officers violated the civil rights of immigrant detainees being held for US Immigration and Customs Enforcement when 10 of them refused COVID-19 testing out of concern that transporting them to be tested could expose them to the virus. The report said Hodgson and his officers used excessive force, including a flash bang and canines, when prisoners had already been subdued or were nonviolent.

Hodgson said he and his staff “did everything by textbook.”  He said the flashbang used by corrections officers to get back into the unit was necessary to move detainees with weapons away from the doors. He said the detainees sacked the unit, took control of it, and needed to be dislodged.

“What does she expect us to do?” he said.

Healey’s report said video surveillance indicated no prisoners had makeshift weapons at the time of the re-entry of the response team, nor did they have a chance to respond to orders before the grenade was launched.

Healey said most of the canines were not muzzled, while Hodgson said most of them were.

Hodgson continued his assertion that the ICE detainees have violent pending criminal charges including armed robbery, murder, kidnapping, and terrorism. By contrast, Healey’s investigators, who reviewed detainees’ cases, said the ones in the unit only had civil violations (like being in the country illegally). Asked to clarify and elaborate on his allegations, Hodgson accused a reporter of sounding like Healey.

“What I can tell you is there’s one individual up there had been charged with a terrorist bombing in Ireland. We have another one that was actually released, who was charged with kidnapping, rape, armed robbery, and, I think, murder,” he said, adding that he couldn’t give out names. Hodgson didn’t mention convictions.

The longtime sheriff said that Healey never interviewed him. “She never interviewed me. She interviewed all my other staff, but she didn’t interview me,” he said, adding that Healey didn’t want to interview him because she didn’t “want to know the truth” about a chair flying through the air and hitting him, something she said wasn’t apparent in video footage. “I’m the only one that got hurt in that situation,” he said.

A spokeswoman for Healey said Hodgson wasn’t interviewed, but she noted he supplied a detailed written report and spoke to the media immediately after the incident. “He fully knew of our investigation and was free to reach out to us at any time to share any additional information,” the spokeswoman said. “We focused our resources and interviews on other individuals whose involvement was less clear.”

Hodgson said he didn’t reach out to Healey’s office because he wasn’t interested in doing her job for her.

Healey dismissed Hodgson’s comments and said her report’s findings are based on “solid evidence” from video footage, hundreds of pages of documents, and interviews with more than a dozen sheriff’s office staff members who were involved.

“Just because Sheriff Hodgson does not like my office’s factual findings does not make them any less reliable or true,” said Healey in a statement.” If the sheriff disputes the accuracy of our findings, he should immediately release all of the video footage, incident reports, and other evidence related the incident to the public – instead, he is fighting against their release in court.”

He said that video footage will be released at the conclusion of the Department of Homeland Security’s investigation into the incident, which should be happening soon. He also said his county investigators submitted a photo of his arm bruised black, green, and yellow. He denied the existence of additional video footage on his cell phone, which Healey claims he declined to turn over.

Meet the Author

Sarah Betancourt

Reporter, CommonWealth

About Sarah Betancourt

Sarah Betancourt is a long-time Latina reporter in Massachusetts. Prior to joining Commonwealth, Sarah was a breaking news reporter for The Associated Press in Boston, and a correspondent with The Boston Globe and The Guardian. She has written about immigration, incarceration, and health policy for outlets like NBC, The Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and the New York Law Journal. Sarah has reported stories such as a national look at teacher shortages, how databases are used by police departments to procure information on immigrants, and uncovered the spread of an infectious disease in children at a family detention center. She has covered the State House, local and national politics, crime and general assignment.

Sarah received a 2018 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for her role in the ProPublica/NPR story, “They Got Hurt at Work and Then They Got Deported,” which explored how Florida employers and insurance companies were getting out of paying workers compensation benefits by using a state law to ensure injured undocumented workers were arrested or deported. Sarah attended Emerson College for a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Communication, and Columbia University for a fellowship and Master’s degree with the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.

About Sarah Betancourt

Sarah Betancourt is a long-time Latina reporter in Massachusetts. Prior to joining Commonwealth, Sarah was a breaking news reporter for The Associated Press in Boston, and a correspondent with The Boston Globe and The Guardian. She has written about immigration, incarceration, and health policy for outlets like NBC, The Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and the New York Law Journal. Sarah has reported stories such as a national look at teacher shortages, how databases are used by police departments to procure information on immigrants, and uncovered the spread of an infectious disease in children at a family detention center. She has covered the State House, local and national politics, crime and general assignment.

Sarah received a 2018 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for her role in the ProPublica/NPR story, “They Got Hurt at Work and Then They Got Deported,” which explored how Florida employers and insurance companies were getting out of paying workers compensation benefits by using a state law to ensure injured undocumented workers were arrested or deported. Sarah attended Emerson College for a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Communication, and Columbia University for a fellowship and Master’s degree with the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.

Hodgson accused Healey of not understanding how law enforcement actually works, and touted his staff’s ability to get all 24 detainees in flexi-cuffs and out of the building less than five minutes after the responseteam took over the unit.

Gov. Charlie Baker said on Wednesday that he had reviewed Healey’s report and noted it called for the state Department of Public Safety to perform an audit of the facility. He said that was something the agency would probably do.