A 2021 roadside dispute between a 33-year-old Hispanic Black man and an off-duty Transit Police officer is shaking up the 2022 race for Suffolk County district attorney.
The Boston Globe reported last Saturday that the incident in Mattapan led to an investigation into the off-duty transit officer, Jacob Green, who pulled a gun on the 33-year-old, Jason Leonor. Other transit officers showed up during the incident, and a coverup allegedly ensued. The Transit Police Department backs up Leonor’s account, which is also supplemented by a 911 call he made during the incident.
Interim DA Kevin Hayden, who is running for a full term after he was appointed to the job by Gov. Baker, took over the case from Rachael Rollins when she became the US attorney for Massachusetts.
The Globe reported that Hayden “offered a series of shifting and contradictory explanations for his office’s handling of the matter,” and later returned campaign donations from Green and Green’s attorney. In the story, Hayden said that the case remains open despite one of his deputies reportedly telling Green’s attorney that the case would not be prosecuted.
Hyde Park City Councillor Ricardo Arroyo, who is on the ballot against Hayden on Sept. 6., said Hayden should resign. “Accepting money from the officer under investigation and his attorney after doing so is deeply unethical and offering a ‘series of shifting and contradictory explanations’ to cover up his actions is a betrayal of the public trust,” Arroyo asserted in a statement.
Others joined in, including City Councillor At-Large Ruthzee Louijeune and Roxbury Councillor Tania Fernandes Anderson, who said, “This is a level of corruption that is unacceptable and (disqualifying).”
One Arroyo supporter held her fire and did not call for Hayden’s resignation, while acknowledging the Globe story is “very concerning.”
“The most important charge we have in public office is to uphold and protect public trust,” Mayor Wu said Monday. “And particularly in our criminal legal system, we’ve seen trust broken again and again. I don’t know all the details of what happened here, but Election Day is four weeks and a day from now, and I’ve made clear who I will be choosing in that election. Early voting starts even before then, so this is an important choice that residents have here.”
On Wednesday (Aug. 10), Hayden said his office is opening a grand jury investigation into the case.
“Our office inherited this investigation, along with many others, from the prior administration," he said in a statement. "We inherited it as an open and active investigation begun in April 2021, and it has always remained open and active. Our announcement today comes amid questions about this investigation and the path it took toward a determination to seek charges. It is important to note that there was never any action taken to close this investigation. The ultimate decision to pursue charges in any investigation rests with me, and me alone."
Hayden continued: “I would not jeopardize my integrity, or the integrity of this office, by agreeing in any way to end an investigation because of campaign donations, as has been suggested. Nor would I jeopardize my integrity, or the office’s integrity, by not pursuing charges because the suspect is a police officer."
Super PAC enters Senate, House races
A super political action committee (PAC) with ties to the Quincy-based Massachusetts Teachers Association has inserted itself into two legislative races.
The super PAC, which can raise and spend campaign cash without limits as long as it doesn’t coordinate with the candidates it supports, spent $9,109 on state Rep. Nika Elugardo, who is one of four major candidates running for the Second Suffolk state Senate seat.
The PAC also spent $2,069 on the campaign of Danielson Tavares, an ex-official from former Mayor Marty Walsh’s administration who is running to succeed state Rep Liz Miranda in the House. The money for both candidates went toward mailers, a key tool to reach voters.
The spending was revealed in filings with the independent Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF). The filing did not disclose the super PAC’s donors, other than saying the money came from the teachers’ union.
The super PAC has mostly supported Democrats over the years, with few exceptions, such as Weymouth Republican Patrick O’Connor.
In the state Senate race, Elugardo is facing off against fellow state Rep. Liz Miranda, as well as senior pastor Miniard Culpepper and former state Sen. Dianne Wilkerson. The seat opened up after Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz opted to run for governor instead of reelection.
Elugardo and Miranda were among highest-spending candidates for state Senate races in July, with Miranda spending $44,554 on her campaign, and Elugardo spending $22,314, according to OCPF.
Culpepper has the highest amount of cash on hand at $111,338, with the Sept. 6 election weeks away. Miranda has $13,935, while Elugardo has $10,545, and Wilkerson $1,830.
In the House race, Tavares is facing off against city planning department official Chris Worrell. Perennial candidate Althea Garrison is also on the ballot.
Tavares has $11,100 in cash on hand, as of the end of July, while Worrell has $4,576, and Garrison $87.
This post was updated on Aug. 10 with news that interim DA Hayden is opening a grand jury investigation into the police misconduct case.