An ethics investigation has found that former Massachusetts Senate President Stan Rosenberg did not violate any Senate rules in connection with the allegations against his estranged husband, Bryon Hefner.
But the investigation found that Rosenberg undermined the goal of the Senate's anti-harassment policy because he knew or should have known that Hefner had racially and sexually harassed Senate employees and failed to address the issue adequately.
It also found that he violated the Senate's IT policy by sharing his computer password with Hefner, giving him access to Rosenberg's Senate email account. Hefner, the investigation found, received access to other Senate information through their personal communications.
For those reasons, the Massachusetts Senate Committee on Ethics recommends that Rosenberg should not serve as Senate president, as a member of Senate leadership or as chair of any committee for the remainder of this legislative session and for the entire 2019-2020 session.
"The Special Investigator’s conclusions – which do not establish a violation of any formal Senate rule – nonetheless demonstrate a significant failure of judgment and leadership by Senator Rosenberg in his role as Senate President," said Sen. Michael Rodrigues, chairman of the Senate Committee on Ethics. "That failure undermined the integrity of the Senate and had destructive consequences for the Senate and the people with business before it. Essentially, Senator Rosenberg failed to protect the Senate from his husband, whom he knew was disruptive, volatile and abusive."
Massachusetts officials weighed in on the Rosenberg investigation
"It's clear to me that Stan Rosenberg cannot continue to serve in the Senate. I think it's best if he steps down immediately," Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey.
"The Senate's ethics report reveals a deeply disturbing pattern of behavior, making it clear that Senator Rosenberg has compromised the business of the Chamber and trust of his constituents," Gov. Charlie Baker said. "For the good of the institution and those who elected him to serve, I believe the Senator needs to resign immediately. My thoughts remain with the victims and I commend them for their bravery."
"We did speak to five people who experienced what I would refer to as unwanted touching," said independent investigator Anthony Fuller about Hefner. "Forcible kissing, touching on the leg, grabbing of the genitals."
"There was an atmosphere that is intolerable in the Senate that folks felt threatened by the Senate president's husband," said Sen. Bruce Tarr, the Republican minority leader. "Harm was done to the Senate by the actions that have occurred here."
The ethics committee launched its independent investigation last year into whether Rosenberg violated any Senate rules in connection with the allegations against Hefner.
A report in The Boston Globe that several men had accused Hefner of misconduct led Rosenberg, 68, to step down as Senate leader in December.
The Amherst Democrat, still a member of the Senate, separated from his husband in January. Rosenberg and Hefner had been together since 2008 and were married in 2016.
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Rosenberg has not been accused of any wrongdoing and has denied any prior knowledge of the allegations against his husband. He has also maintained that Hefner exerted no influence on his actions or decisions as Senate president.
Hefner, 30, pleaded not guilty at his arraignment last month to 10 charges, including sexual assault, distributing nude photos without consent and criminal lewdness.
He was released on personal recognizance and ordered to have no contact with the alleged victims or witnesses and to stay away from the State House. His lawyer said he is looking forward to defending himself in court. He is expected to face trial in March of 2019.
Prosecutors allege that Hefner sexually assaulted one victim on three separate occasions in the Boston area, including once in June 2015 in a residential building and twice in April 2016 — in a car heading from one political event and going to another and at the political event itself.
This victim told Hefner to "screw off" after the incident in the car, court documents show. When they arrived at the other Boston event and were seated next to each other, Hefner then allegedly grabbed the victim's genitals through his clothes under the table without the man's consent.
Hefner allegedly assaulted one of his victims in December 2013, after he and his victim attended a conference that lasted for several days.
The victim recalled heavy drinking and then being in a hotel suite with Hefner. The victim said he woke up the next morning naked and alone in his own hotel room bed, with no memory of how he got there. The victim learned several years later that Hefner had allegedly taken photos of him while he was naked and shown them to at least four other people.
Hefner allegedly sexually assaulted another victim in 2014 and exposed his genitals to that victim in June 2016. The victim, who told investigators Hefner had been a close friend, claimed Hefner repeatedly tried to grope him and that he had to retreat to the bathroom to get away.
Court documents show the same victim took Hefner to his apartment after Hefner was refused entry into a party being hosted by another of Hefner's alleged victims, when Hefner repeatedly tried to get into the victim's bed with him in it. The victim told investigators he was "shocked and alarmed" when Hefner came into his bedroom to expose his genitals and then left, leaving his apartment's front door open.
The indictments also allege that Hefner sexually assaulted a third victim in August 2016. This victim told police that he and his wife were celebrating a friend's birthday on an apartment building's roof deck when Hefner joined the event. Hefner allegedly made unsolicited comments that the victim was "hot," and as the group was leaving the building, Hefner grabbed this victim and "kissed him aggressively on the lips without his consent."
All of the alleged offenses happened in Boston.
A spokesperson for Rosenberg declined to comment Wednesday.