Baker cries at emotional domestic violence roundtable

It is hardly unusual for Gov. Charlie Baker to cry in public. But on Wednesday, after a gut-wrenching hour listening to stories from survivors of domestic violence, the governor not only cried, but admitted failure about his inability to get a bill addressing criminal dangerousness past the finish line.

“We filed this legislation…four years ago,” Baker said. “I have to say I’ve never been so distressed about my incompetence and my ability to actually deliver for someone than I am right now.”

“I literally wrote in my notes, ‘I sometimes wonder who’s side we’re on,’” Baker admitted.

Baker participated in a roundtable with survivors of domestic violence at the Plymouth Public Library, moderated by Sandra Blatchford, the executive director of the South Shore Resource and Advocacy Center, which helps survivors. He held the event to announce the refiling of two bills, both of which he introduced for the last two legislative sessions but which the Legislature has not yet acted on.

One bill would expand the list of offenses for which a person can be held in jail because they are considered dangerous. It would add certain crimes of sexual abuse, some weapons crimes, child pornography, human trafficking, threatening violence, and others. It would let a judge consider prior criminal history in determining dangerousness and hold a dangerousness hearing later in the judicial process, if one does not occur at an initial arraignment. It would empower a judge to revoke someone’s release if they violate certain bail conditions – like an order to stay away from a victim – rather than requiring a finding of dangerousness. It would require better notification of victims when an abuser is released. The bill has previously raised opposition from those concerned with defendants’ rights.

A second bill would create criminal penalties for adults who distribute sexually explicit images for revenge purposes, so-called “revenge porn,” while sending minors who distribute sexually explicit images to a diversion program.

The roundtable, which was live streamed, was a far cry from the typical gubernatorial event featuring media savvy politicians and advocates.

One participant said she was 33 when she started dating the man she referred to as “monster.” The man had a long list of convictions for violent crimes against men and women. He beat a woman almost to death, but was released on bail and got a suspended sentence and probation. He shattered another woman’s leg. The woman said her abuser was arraigned five times for his abuse of her. He broke her back, crushed her arm, strangled her, and gave her concussions. Yet he was never held for dangerousness. He served a five-year prison sentence and is now out on probation. “I know most likely he’ll keep his promise to kill me,” she said.

Another woman said she was sexually assaulted and strangled in 2019 as she breastfed her baby. Her abuser was released with a GPS tracker, and she has had the police contact her multiple times telling her his ankle strap came loose. “All I could think about was where was he when he was unaccounted for?” she said, since the man had threatened to set her house on fire and kill her.

“If my abuser was held because of dangerousness, he would have never got the opportunity to stalk me, break into my home, strangle me, and kidnap me and my baby,” another woman said. Despite a record that includes murder and escaping prison, she said the man was able to cut off his GPS tracker, break into her home, break eight of her teeth, and rip her hair out. Her older children have moved out “because my home isn’t safe,” she said.

Publicly, Baker called the survivors’ courage for telling their stories “breathtaking.”

Privately, caught on an open microphone as he got up from the event, the governor put it even more bluntly: “That was brutal.” Yes, governor, domestic violence is.

SHIRA SCHOENBERG

 

FROM COMMONWEALTH

Rush job: A Maine judge says he will rule in two days on whether to grant a preliminary injunction putting on hold a law passed overwhelmingly by the state’s voters blocking construction of a Massachusetts-financed transmission line bringing hydroelectricity into the region from Quebec. At stake is a $1 billion project that Massachusetts officials believe is essential if the state is going to reach its near and long-term climate goals.

“I wish I had more time between this oral argument concluding and the end of the week to consider the arguments but I don’t,” said District Court Judge Michael Duddy. “I will do my best with the time I have available.” Read more,

Hispanics lag on health care: New data indicate Hispanic residents of Massachusetts are having more difficulty obtaining affordable health care than other ethnic group. Future research may shed light on why. Read more.

Green new deal: Democratic gubernatorial candidate Sonia Chang-Diaz backs a green new deal, supporting fare-free public transit and 100 percent renewable energy by 2030. Many of the state senator’s positions mirror those of Ben Downing, who is also seeking the Democratic nomination for governor. The policy briefs of the two candidates are big on ambitious goals but skimpy on details about how to reach them. Read more

Back to the future: The Boston Red Sox, in partnership with the state, plan to launch a COVID-19 booster facility at Fenway Park next month. The ball club previously ran a vaccination facility at Fenway Park that shut down in March. Read more.

OPINION

Teacher diversity: Makeeba McCreary and Jesse Solomon of Boston Plan for Excellence say it’s time for the Legislature to take steps to increase teacher diversity in Massachusetts. Read more.

 

FROM AROUND THE WEB

 

BEACON HILL

Lawmakers are urged to strengthen the state’s lemon law, which is meant to protect buyers who purchase defective vehicles. (Eagle-Tribune)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS  

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu said all tents will be removed from the Mass. and Cass area by January 12. (Boston Globe

Joan Vennochi says Jerome Rappaport, who died last week at age 94, was a great philanthropist – who also destroyed Boston’s West End neighborhood. (Boston Globe) She cites an essay on Rappaport’s legacy by Jim Vrabel, published last week in CommonWealth along with a commentary piece by Peter Dreier on the West End saga. 

As some towns begin to reimpose indoor mask mandates, Gloucester officials decide in a 3-2 vote not to impose one. (Gloucester Daily Times) A number of Massachusetts lawmakers are pressuring Gov. Baker to bring back an indoor mask mandate, as COVID cases rise. (MassLive)

The Boston City Council gave final approval to a zoning change that removes parking space requirements in affordable housing developments. (Boston Globe

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

The Standard-Times analyzes the comparison between the HIV/AIDS epidemic and the COVID-19 pandemic. 

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, in an op-ed call, calls for expanding the Supreme Court. (Boston Globe

Joe Battenfeld is enjoying the barbs being exchanged between Warren and Elon Musk, who dubbed her “Senator Karen.” (Boston Herald

ELECTIONS

East Boston resident Tania Del Rio, who ran the city’s Office of Women’s Advancement under former mayor Marty Walsh, said she’ll run for the district city council seat held by Lydia Edwards if, as expected, Edwards wins the area state Senate seat in next month’s special election and resigns her council seat. (Boston Herald)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

The Mashpee Wampanoag still haven’t given up on building a casino in Taunton. (Taunton Daily Gazette)

EDUCATION

Curtis Blake Day School, a K-8 school for children with learning disabilities in Springfield, abruptly notifies parents that it will shut down next month. (MassLive)

Two ninth graders are in custody after threatening to commit a shooting at Worcester Technical High School. (Telegram & Gazette)

The Boston School Committee voted to close three middle schools as part of plans to eliminate middle schools from the system. (Boston Herald

ARTS/CULTURE

Residents in the Lower Mills section of Dorchester are trying to figure out what to do with the old, rusted out letters that made up the Baker Chocolate sign. The sign itself is being replaced. (Dorchester Reporter)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Eversource explains why it needs to build a new natural gas pipeline in Springfield, as local residents complain. (MassLive)

New York City bans the use of natural gas in newly constructed buildings. (NPR)

Meet the Author
CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

UMass Amherst will collect and preserve the legal and personal papers belonging to convicted rapist Benjamin LaGuer. (Telegram & Gazette)