Justice System Racist?
AG Healey: Yes
GOP’s McMahon: No

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2018/10/04/justice-system-racist-ag-healey-yes-gops-mcmahon-no/

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey and Republican challenger Jay McMahon clashed on guns, the state’s gender-identity law, the president’s travel ban, U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, and whether the criminal justice system is racist during a debate Wednesday.

Healey, a Democrat finishing her first term who lives in Charlestown, and McMahon, a criminal defense lawyer who lives in Bourne, appeared on WGBH-TV Channel 2 in the debate, which was moderated by Jim Braude and Margery Eagan.

At one point Eagan asked Healey about a statement Massachusetts U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren made August 3 in New Orleans that the American criminal justice system is “racist … front to back.”

“I don’t know that I’d characterize it that way,” Healey said. “What I would acknowledge are the real disparities that exist within the criminal justice system — along racial lines, but also along socioeconomic lines. And I think that we’ve got to work to improve the fairness of the criminal justice system, and to make sure that it is working effectively. That’s really important. It’s something I’m committed to and would want to continue to do as attorney general.”

McMahon dismissed the suggestion that the system is racist.

“I want to tell you, I’ve been a criminal defense attorney for 30 years. I have represented African-Americans and minorities from Brockton, to Onset, and all over Cape Cod. I have not seen the criminal justice system – and I see it up front, in representing clients — I have not seen it racist front to back. I have not seen any examples of racism, and I’ve represented hundreds of minorities,” McMahon said.

But Healey said he’s wrong.

“I think the disparities that exist along racial lines in our criminal justice system are real, they’re documented, and criminal justice reform is something that the next attorney general needs to implement. A law was passed,” Healey said.

“What have you done about it so far?” Braude asked.

“Supported the criminal justice reform legislation. There are a lot of good things that are coming about as a result of that, Jim. It’s important that it be implemented, it’s important that it be implemented well, and that’s certainly something that my office will continue to do,” Healey said.

McMahon called analysis of the criminal justice system “the real difference” between Healey and himself.

“We’re sending the wrong message:  Law enforcement needs to know we’ve got their back,” McMahon said. “Now I can tell you for a fact, there is no racism in the law enforcement system. And for her to say that there is, and to put an indictment against them, I just think it’s crazy.”

Earlier, McMahon attacked Healey for straying beyond the bounds of what a state attorney general should do.

“One of the things that Maura Healey has been is a political activist. And not only enforcing the law but going beyond that, by creating her own law, almost as a super-legislature,” McMahon said.

“Like what?” Braude asked.

“Well, her reinterpretation of the assault weapons ban. She actually signed an edict, if you will, a decree, in which she declared whole categories of guns as actually illegal to possess, when they were purchased through the Massachusetts gun –“ McMahon said, before getting cut off by Braude.

Healey defended her record on guns, saying that the morning after the Pulse nightclub mass-shooting in Florida she asked her staff to find out if the type of gun used in that incident were available for purchase in Massachusetts.

“We have an assault weapons ban on the books. Bipartisan legislation, signed by a Republican governor. Reauthorized by Mitt Romney, actually, back in 2004. And when I learned that in 2015, 10,000 assault rifles were sold in Massachusetts, in violation of the law, I did my job as attorney general. And I sent notice and made clear that we would enforce the law, and that those sales were prohibited under existing law. Since that happened, Jim, sales of those weapons have ended in the state, and yes, I’ve been sued twice by the NRA,” Healey said.

Healey said she supports existing state gun restrictions, such as the one that requires would-be handgun owners to get a permit to carry from their local police chief.

“By the way, you can respect and honor the Second Amendment, and also make sure that you’re enforcing laws that protect public health and public safety. That’s my job,” Healey said.

“Do you think she honors the Second Amendment?” Braude asked McMahon.

“No not at all. I think she violates it, and she tramples right all over it,” McMahon said.

McMahon challenged the effectiveness of Healey’s policy when it comes to public safety.

“Only legal guns got off the street. Illegal guns will always be on the streets,” McMahon said. “And as for gun violence, no licensed gun owner has committed gun crimes in Massachusetts. And other than last year, the last time someone was even killed with a rifle in Massachusetts was in 2006.”

Question 3 in the November general election asks voters to continue or end a July 2016 statute prohibiting discrimination on the basis of gender identity in public accommodations. It’s often called the Bathroom Bill, because it allows biological men who identify as women to use bathrooms and locker rooms meant for females.

Healey is a strong supporter of the law, and said she plans to vote Yes on Question 3 to uphold it.

“And certainly when it comes to protecting the rights, an existing civil right here under Massachusetts law, the right of a person to use a place of public accommodation, to get on a bus, to go to a restaurant, to go to the movies, and not be refused service because of their gender identity, is an important law we need to keep in place,” Healey said.

McMahon said he’s against it because it makes females in a vulnerable situation less safe.

“I’m going to vote no on it … to repeal the law, because it doesn’t go far enough. It doesn’t protect women from sexual predators, and that I think is a public safety issue,” McMahon said, referring to “males who would go into women’s locker rooms or a women’s restroom.”

“… It just doesn’t go far enough in protecting women and children,” McMahon said.

“That’s a gross and rather offensive characterization of the law,” Healey said. “…And by the way, there’s no evidence anywhere, no record anywhere, and we’ve looked across this country, of an instance where somebody used protection like this to commit a crime.”

McMahon said recurring instances of sex offenders putting cameras in women’s bathrooms and intruding on women in such places makes the law problematic.

“It’s not the transgenders that we’re concerned about. It’s the men who are using it and claiming to be transgender,” McMahon said.

On Kavanaugh, Healey and McMahon also disagreed.

Eagan asked Healey if Kavanaugh should be confirmed.

“Absolutely not,” Healey said. “He does not have the judicial temperament to sit on that court. And to me it’s not a matter of policy, or which way his judicial leanings go. I think what we saw last week, in a really stark display, was the lack of decorum, the lack of temperament that really is required for the highest justice in the land.”

She argued that Kavanaugh should already have withdrawn.

“Dr. Blasey Ford’s testimony was credible, it was powerful, and it was inspiring,” Healey said.

McMahon said he wants to wait for the Federal Bureau of Investigation probe of the allegations.

“I have to admit, Dr. Ford, her testimony was very compelling. But also, so wasn’t the judge, as well,” McMahon said.

As attorney general Healey sued in 2017 to stop President Donald Trump’s ban on citizens of six predominately Muslim countries designated as terrorist havens.

“I think by Maura Healey going in and doing what she did with respect to the travel ban was against our public safety interest,” McMahon said.

But Healey said it was not only the right thing to do, but also helpful to Massachusetts.

“You know who was so supportive of my office’s challenge to the travel ban? Our largest employers. Our largest businesses. Our teaching hospitals, our research institutions. Our colleges and our universities. All of those entities adversely impacted by a wrongheaded immigration policy,” Healey said.

On a related matter, Eagan asked Healey about immigration policy more broadly.

“So would you make Massachusetts a sanctuary state?” Eagan asked.

“No, that’s not my call. I’m the attorney general. My job is to enforce the law,” Healey said.

On opioids and fentanyl, Healey called combatting the drug problem her “top priority.” She noted that she created a fentanyl strike force and supports multi-state drug investigations, and she emphasized the importance of drug-use prevention education in public middle schools.

Eagan asked her a question about public statements by Rachael Rollins, the Democratic nominee for Suffolk County district attorney.

“You know, the woman that will likely be the new district attorney of Suffolk County would go further than that. She would say that we shouldn’t even prosecute people with intent to distribute drugs. Do you agree with her?” Eagan asked.

“I think that it depends on the circumstances,” Healey said. “I think that strategically focusing on those who are trafficking heroin and fentanyl into our communities – I mean, fentanyl is what is killing the majority of residents in our communities … So focusing on that is absolutely imperative, while doing what we need to do to provide access to treatment and care.”

McMahon said Rollins’s stance on prosecuting drug crimes is incoherent.

“I can’t believe that someone would run for a prosecutor’s job and say, ‘I’m not going to do it’,” McMahon said.

He also criticized Healey’s support for removing mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent drug offenders, something achieved through the recently enacted criminal justice reform bill.

“But I do know that Attorney Healey is soft on crime. I mean, she has actually been on record that the Massachusetts sentencing guidelines are too harsh. I say they’re not harsh enough,” McMahon said. “There’s an opioid epidemic here in Massachusetts. … Let us drive these pushers, these drug purveyors, these traffickers out of state. … We’re fighting a war here.”

Braude noted that the state attorney general doesn’t just enforce the law but also has a bully pulpit, and he asked the candidates how they would use theirs if elected.

McMahon emphasized law and order.

“I would speak out against judges who cut felons loose, and give them short sentences or small sentences or probation when they’re caught red-handed — especially purveyors of poison,” McMahon said. “We have found that some of these people have gotten out, or let out, and have gone later on and killed police officers. And to me it’s deplorable that judges would try to be a judge and also the parole board at the same time.”

Healey touted her record during the past four years.

“The job of the attorney general is to be the people’s lawyer, and I’m proud of the record that we have standing up for consumers, for workers, for seniors, fighting to protect student borrowers victimized by predatory for-profit schools,” Healey said. “I think about the work that we’ve done for taxpayers. You know, last year alone we brought back over $800 million, my office did, to the state. For every dollar spent on my office, we’re bringing back 17 to the state. I want to continue to do the work as the people’s lawyer, which means standing up, enforcing the law, and not being afraid to take on interests, no matter how big or how powerful.”

The general election is Tuesday, November 6.