Estranged husband of former Mass. senate president guilty of indecent assault

BOSTON (AP) — The estranged husband of former Massachusetts state Senate President Stanley Rosenberg pleaded guilty to indecent assault.

Bryon Hefner had faced criminal charges of sexual assault, distributing nude photos without consent and criminal lewdness. He pleaded guilty to one count of indecent assault and battery, one count of assault and battery, and one count of disseminating a nude photo.

Justice Mary Ames sentenced Hefner to three years of probation and a one-year jail sentence that is suspended for a year.

The charges Hefner pleaded guilty to stem from a series of incidents, including groping an acquaintance, kissing another against their will and taking, and distributing nude photos of a third — also without consent.

Six other charges were dismissed.

Hefner made the plea Tuesday in Suffolk Superior Court in Boston. He must also register as a sex offender.

Hefner, 32, briefly addressed the court saying he wanted to apologize to the victims and his family. He also described his marital status as “separated.”

Hefner had initially pleaded not guilty to all charges, and the case was set to go to trial Wednesday. He had faced up to five years on two counts and 2 1/2 on another.

During the court proceeding, prosecutors read statements from the three victims, who were not named.

One of the victims said Hefner was able to do what he did because he knew he would face no consequences given his influence with one of the three most powerful politicians in state government.

The charges shook Beacon Hill and led to Rosenberg’s downfall.

When the allegations first surfaced in the Boston Globe in late 2017, Rosenberg, 69, said he would temporarily step down from his leadership post.

A scathing ethics report released in 2018 found that while Rosenberg did not formally violate Senate rules, he did violate the chamber’s information technology policies by giving Hefner “unfettered access” to Rosenberg’s Senate email account even before he became president in 2015.

That access only ended in March 2017 after Rosenberg staff members detected two instances of Hefner surreptitiously emailing two public officials as if he was Rosenberg, investigators said.

The report also said Rosenberg “knew or should have known Hefner had racially and sexually harassed Senate employees” and failed to address the issue adequately.

The release of the report prompted Gov. Charlie Baker — a Republican — and Attorney General Maura Healey — a Democrat — to call for the Amherst Democrat to resign from the Senate.

Rosenberg resigned the following day.

At the time, Rosenberg said he was leaving because he no longer had the authority to fully represent his constituents.

He noted the report found no evidence that he violated any Senate rules or was aware of any alleged sexual assaults by Hefner. But Rosenberg acknowledged findings in the report faulting him for not doing more to control Hefner’s access to information.

Democratic Sen. Karen Spilka was later elected to fill the post of Senate president.

 

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