Boston City Councilor Ricardo Arroyo lost several high-profile endorsements in his race for Suffolk County District Attorney Wednesday in the wake of a Boston Globe report that uncovered two sexual assault investigations when Arroyo was a teenager.
Mayor Michelle Wu announced in the morning that she was rescinding her endorsement, followed shortly by Massachusetts' two U.S. senators and U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley. But at a City Council meeting, Arroyo said he wasn't planning to drop out of the race.
Get New England news, weather forecasts and entertainment stories to your inbox. Sign up for NECN newsletters.
Emotions boiled over at the meeting, with spectators thrown out getting into fisticuffs in the hallway outside. The dispute involved Arroyo as well as allegations over racism and redistricting.
"Here, people are not innocent until proven guilty," said City Councilor Tania Fernandes Anderson. "People are guilty first, people are crucified, people are lynched, same old tricks, same masters though."
The allegations against Arroyo, which he's denied, surfaced in the Globe last week, but the councilor had retained many of his major endorsements until Wednesday, a day after one of his accusers spoke anonymously to the Globe. She said that how Arroyo reacted to the initial report made her "sick to my stomach."
"I want to be sensitive to the fact that I see that she's in pain," Arroyo told NBC10 Boston Wednesday night. "But what I know to be true in this moment is that this was brought forward, in real time, to authorities at that time, who investigated this and found it to be unfounded."
Arroyo announced this week that he had been stripped of his leadership titles, including council vice president. Council President Ed Flynn, who rescinded his endorsement of Arroyo last week, said he would "reassess" the decision after 60 days. Arroyo called that move a "political play."
Some argued at Wednesday's city council meeting that the move was racially motivated.
"They're allegations, for crying out loud," said Anderson. "Let the court decide."
Other members said it was appropriate for Arroyo to lose his titles on the council.
"As elected officials, the public has put their trust in our words and our actions," said City Councilor Frank Baker. "Any violation of that trust, certainly allegations of sexual assault, must be investigated."
Wu was retracted her support Wednesday morning.
"The allegations by someone who was a minor at the time are deeply troubling to me, as is newly reported information on anonymous threats she received in the past," Wu said in a statement posted on Twitter. "For the District Attorney to advance the reforms our communities deserve, the office must have our communities' trust and confidence. I can no longer make a public recommendation for a candidate for this office."
Wu made it clear, however, that her statement "should not be taken as a tacit endorsement to vote for Kevin Hayden for District Attorney. I continue to have serious concerns about Mr. Hayden's judgment in prosecuting cases, his handling of media scrutiny of pending cases, and his conduct in office."
The campaign of Hayden, the incumbent candidate as acting district attorney, also came under scrutiny following a Boston Globe report about his office's handling of a 2021 case against an MBTA Transit Police officer who allegedly pulled a gun on a driver while off-duty. The newspaper reported that an investigation launched by then-District Attorney Rachael Rollins stalled after Hayden took over.
Arroyo called for Hayden to resign after the report. At the time, Hayden's office told NBC10 Boston in a statement, "We're not taking seriously any political theatrics calculated to benefit DA Hayden's opponent."
Hayden's office announced after the report that a grand jury would review the incident.
At a debate Wednesday night in Mattapan, Arroyo and Hayden traded barbs.
"My opponent has experience holding up broken institutions, and he has some experience breaking them, too," Arroyo said of Hayden.
"The recent allegations regarding Councilor Arroyo are both horrifying and disqualifying," Hayden said. "The voters are going to have to decide for themselves. Do you believe this woman, or do you believe the man standing to my right here?"
Wu said Wednesday that she was "disheartened" at the turmoil that has consumed the district attorney's race, especially considering that tens of thousands of votes have already been cast. She said the timing of the release of the allegations against Arroyo "suggest this was a politically motivated leak," which she said is relevant because the Suffolk County District Attorney's office conducted their own investigations, has their own set of these files, and also made the decision to close the cases over 15 years ago.
"I have great respect for our democratic system and trust that each voter will make this choice using their best judgment. However is elected will have significant work to restore the trust of our residents," the mayor concluded.
Wu's announcement was followed about a half hour later by a statement from U.S. Sens. Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren saying they are also rescinding their endorsements of Arroyo.
"The accusations in this case are serious, and in light of the latest victim statements reported in Tuesday evening's Boston Globe, we have notified the campaign that we are rescinding our endorsement of Ricardo Arroyo for District Attorney," the statement read.
Massachusetts State Rep. Jon Santiago, who had also endorsed Arroyo, announced Wednesday that he has rescinded his endorsement as well.
And Pressley announced she was pulling her own endorsement, citing "renewed trauma for all involved and deeply eroded public trust in our candidates."
The Boston Teachers Union also announced Wednesday that it had pulled its support from Arroyo's campaign.
Arroyo has filed a lawsuit against the city claiming the investigative files into the sexual assaults should be released and will show the accusations against him were unfounded.
"I believe in the truth," Arroyo said Wednesday. "I believe these records will show the truth, that's why I'm looking for these files. I've said from the very beginning I've never sexually assaulted anyone in my life, and that is true, these are accusations from when I was 17 years old."
As for the fight outside council chambers, one person was arrested on an assault charge. Some in the boisterous crowd were supporting Arroyo while others said he should resign.
"I know we've had meetings that have gotten a little out of hand, but I've never seen a meeting turn into a brawl that comes out into the hallway with police needing to escort people out," said City Councilor Erin Murphy.
At a press conference last week, Arroyo denied the sexual assault allegations, saying he only recently learned of them.
Citing police and school records, the Boston Globe reported last week that in 2005, a high school student told police Arroyo, then her classmate, had sexually assaulted her. A second teen told police in 2007 that she believed Arroyo had sexually assaulted her, as well.
"That woman has come forward and been very steadfast in that I've never done anything to her," Arroyo said Wednesday night of the 2007 allegation.
Arroyo said he was not aware he was ever the subject of any police investigations.
The Boston Police Department confirmed to NBC10 Boston that it had investigated the two complaints, forwarding the cases to the Suffolk County District Attorney's Office that Arroyo hopes to lead.
The Globe reported that the first accuser, who was 17 at the time, told police in 2005 that a then-18-year-old Arroyo repeatedly pressured her to perform oral sex during a four-to-six-month period.