AG Healey: Rollins 'doing what she promised to do'

"I think what's important is that people find ways to communicate, talk to, work with one another," Attorney General Maura Healey said. Sam Doran/SHNS photo

After being dragged into the days-long spat between Gov. Charlie Baker and Suffolk District Attorney Rachael Rollins, Attorney General Maura Healey said Tuesday that it's up to Rollins who to prosecute in her county and she looks forward to talking with her directly.

Healey, who endorsed Rollins in her general election last fall, is one of several prominent state officials eagerly awaiting a meeting with Rollins or her team this week to discuss a March 25 policy memo that sparked a bitter exchange over the weekend between the Baker administration and Rollins.

The animosity began late last week when Public Safety Secretary Thomas Turco wrote a letter to Rollins raising concerns with a memo she issued last month outlining new criminal justice policies for her office, including a list of crimes that she no longer wanted to prosecute.

Rollins responded over the course of several days by blasting Baker's office for releasing the letter to the press without notifying her.

The district attorney also suggested the administration was misogynistic and lacking in diversity, and made it personal by bringing up Baker's family and the treatment the governor's youngest son received by law enforcement after he was accused of, but never charged with, groping a woman on a plane.

Healey was also not immune from Rollins, who questioned why Healey had not jumped to her defense. "Silence is assent," Rollins said, according to the Boston Globe.

"I think District Attorney Rollins, first of all, is doing what she promised to do. I think she's put forth some important policy ideas and considerations," Healey said Tuesday, in her first interview with reporters on the topic.

The attorney general said she had not yet read Rollins's policy memo, but looked forward to meeting with her this week to hear it explained directly. "Second, it's her prerogative. She's the district attorney and it's her prerogative to determine how she wants to exercise her prosecutorial discretion, so we'll talk more later this week," she said.

The attorney general said she didn't know why Rollins chose to criticize her for not commenting earlier.

"I'm not sure what that's in reference too," Healey said. "I hadn't had a chance to review the policy memo nor had I discussed it with District Attorney Rollins."

Healey isn't the only one expecting to meet with Rollins or her staff this week. Turco and Rollins's teams are also working to schedule a meeting for later this week, but a spokesman for the secretary said Tuesday he had no further details.

"I'm looking forward to the meeting that will take place this week between Secretary Turco and his folks and her team to talk about the things we can do together and make sure we keep people safe and provide criminal justice in Suffolk County," Baker said Monday afternoon.

Baker called Rollins on Saturday to discuss the situation and try to put it behind them. Rollins offered appreciative words for the phone call, but then turned around on Sunday and went back after the governor.

"This is an example of when someone slaps you in the face and thinks you’re going to turn away and cry. And you take your earrings off, roundhouse kick them dead in the face, and then punch them to the ground," she was reported saying at a rally Sunday organized by community activists.

Asked if he was bothered that Rollins resumed her heated rhetoric after their conversation, Baker said, "I'm not much on personal attacks. I prefer to focus on the issues."

Healey knows what it's like to be on the receiving end of a letter from the Baker administration taking issue with a decision she has made. The Democrat faced criticism from the governor during his first term for her stepped up enforcement of the state's ban on assault weapons, including copycat weapons.

Though she said she did not remember getting a heads up from the administration in that case that its letter would be released to the press, Healey said it was "ancient history."

"I think what's important is that people find ways to communicate, talk to, work with one another. We've tried to do that across a number of fronts and I expect that's what we'll see as we move forward," Healey said.

Middlesex County District Attorney Marian Ryan, whose jurisdiction abuts Rollins's territory, said she had nothing to say about the flareup between her counterpart in Suffolk County and Baker.

Asked if she had any of her own concerns with Rollins's reforms, Ryan said, "Every district attorney is doing their best to represent their constituents and protect the pubic safety in their county," and declined further comment.

Essex County District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett was similarly wary of getting dragged into the controversy.

"They both say they're going to try to work something out so that's up to them," Blodgett told the News Service after an event at the State House honoring individuals and organizations for their work to support witnesses and victims of crime.

But like Baker and Healey, Blodgett said he'd welcome a meeting with the new district attorney.

"I look forward to DA Rollins talking to her fellow district attorneys, hopefully at some future meeting," Blodgett said.

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