Tonight, in a repeat of last week’s contentious Select Board Public Forum, Hopkinton residents assembled to direct a cascade of criticism toward the Select Board over their perceived lack of action regarding Hopkinton Police Chief Joseph Bennett and Select Board Member Amy Ritterbusch’s leaking of an alleged rape victim’s confidential information, in violation of Massachusetts General Laws.
Resident Timothy Boivin pointedly asked the board “why is Police Chief Bennett still serving in his official capacity?” Boivin recounted that Bennett personally had released confidential information about the alleged victim. “The chief’s actions are inexcusable,” said Boivin.
Resident Peter Fogg, who is a trial attorney, expressed his dismay about the Board’s handling of Brennan’s Loudermill hearing. Directing his comment to Board member Irfan Nasrullah, Fogg said “Irfan, as a fellow attorney, I would have expected to hear the words ex post facto come out of your mouth. I was ashamed on behalf of our profession that it didn’t.” Ex post facto is a Latin term that means “after the fact.” In legal contexts, it refers to laws that apply retroactively, thereby affecting actions that were taken before the law was in effect. The term is most commonly used to describe laws that would work to the disadvantage of an individual by making an action illegal that was legal when originally performed, or by altering the punishment for a crime after it has been committed. Ex post facto laws are prohibited by Article I, Section 9 of the U.S. Constitution. Fogg was referring to the town’s central legal argument against Brennan, in which they assert policy violations that weren’t departmental policies at the time of the alleged violations.
Fogg continued: “We have the very real possibility of criminal charges coming down for Chief Bennett and Select Board member Amy Ritterbusch”. He cited MGL Chapter 41 97D, which makes the disclosure of a rape victim’s confidential information a crime punishable by imprisonment for not more than one year. He noted that this statue applies to police officers, and urged attendees to contact Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan to ask that charges be pursued. Ritterbusch could theoretically be charged with a violation of MGL Chapter 265 24C, which makes it a crime for anyone to disclose confidential information about a rape victim.
Resident Jim Scanlon began reading a prepared statement, but because comments are limited to two minutes per speaker, his message was continued across several other speakers, who picked up where Scanlon left off. The message was a “Statement of Facts” that citizens had supplied to the Framingham District Clerk requesting that the Clerk and Magistrate issue a summons to Bennett and Ritterbusch to appear before the court and explain why charges should not be filed against them.
Resident Steve Snow stated that on Tuesday, February 2, he had visited HPD to report this alleged crime. A report was taken by Sgt. Aaron O’Neill, who accepted Snow’s paperwork, and Snow asked him to log the incident. Yet as of today, there is no log entry for this complaint. “I’ll follow up,” replied Chair Muriel Kramer. “We can’t trust the police department if we report something and they do nothing with it,” finished Snow.
“How do we get you to hear us?” asked exasperated resident Scott Ober. “We elected all of you.”
“Be careful, sir,” warned Kramer.
“Or what, Muriel?” replied Ober.
“Just don’t be confrontational and aggressive,” said Kramer. “Say what you came to say.”
Ober continued. “Since you all seem to care more about your personal power and agenda than the town you were elected to serve, we are going to have you all recalled. I’m hoping you will all want to avoid the embarrassment of a recall and resign, especially Amy, who committed a crime, and still sits there ready to judge Tim Brennan if and when the time comes. You should resign tonight,” he said to Ritterbusch.
When there were no more speakers, Kramer called a five minute recess, and then the meeting resumed with the planned agenda.
Earlier in the day, supporters protested in front of town hall, holding signs that read “#thankyoutim”.
“The Select Board is deaf on this issue, but they will most certainly hear the collective and thunderous voice of the town residents when they are recalled,” said Scanlon, following the meeting.
Photos courtesy of Christine Strickland