President Joe Biden's nominee for U.S. attorney for Massachusetts is a progressive district attorney who opposes the prosecution of drug dealers and has worked closely with a group that supports defunding police departments.
Biden on Monday nominated Rachael Rollins, the district attorney for Suffolk County, to lead the U.S. attorney's office in Boston. Rollins is a member of the new wave of progressive prosecutors pushing a radical criminal justice reform agenda in their cities. Rollins's critics call her "the grand dame of the rogue prosecutor movement when it comes to her nonprosecution practices."
The nomination comes as Biden attempts to downplay allegations that Democrats are soft on crime and that they support the movement to defund police departments. While numerous Democratic lawmakers support the defund cause, Biden accused Republicans last week of "lying" about Democratic support for the issue.
Rollins's potential promotion represents a significant return on investment for the Democratic megadonor George Soros, who has invested millions of dollars in reshaping prosecutors' offices around the country with liberal activists like Rollins, one of several liberal district attorneys who decline to prosecute crime.
Last year, Rollins partnered with two other Soros-backed district attorneys to form the Truth, Justice, and Reconciliation Commission. Modeled after South African tribunals established to reckon with apartheid, the commission called the U.S. justice system "a cruel and oppressive force of injustice" for minorities.
Rollins, Chesa Boudin, and Larry Krasner formed the commission with the Grassroots Law Project, a left-wing group that says police reform "must begin with defunding police and investing in communities." The project has called for the closure of "youth and adult prisons and jails," as well as an end to the arrest and handcuffing of juveniles.
Rollins has collaborated with Shaun King, a controversial social justice activist who cofounded the Grassroots Law Project. King has been accused of misspending funds raised in various social justice projects. King has also pushed numerous conspiracy theories, and once falsely accused a white man of killing a 7-year-old black girl in Houston. The man later committed suicide while in jail on unrelated charges. In 2019, King hailed a man who was killed as he attempted to firebomb an ICE detention facility as a "martyr."
Rollins herself has not explicitly called for defunding police departments, though she supports drastic policing reforms. She also backs a moratorium on the prosecution of 15 crimes, including drug distribution, shoplifting, resisting arrest, disorderly conduct, breaking and entering, and making threats.
While Rollins supports an end to aggressive policing, she allegedly used the kind of heavy-handed tactics she decries during a traffic incident last year.
Massachusetts's Democratic attorney general Maura Healey investigated Rollins over an incident on Christmas Eve 2020 in which she allegedly threatened to issue a traffic citation to a motorist who cut her off in traffic. The motorist said that Rollins pulled her over after activating the police lights on her government vehicle.
Rollins threatened to call the police on a reporter who asked her about the incident earlier this year.
"I'll call the police on you and make an allegation and we'll see how that works with you," Rollins said.
Healey cleared Rollins of any civil rights or criminal violations that could have stemmed from the road rage incident. Healey referred the matter to the state's ethics commission, which cleared Rollins in March.
In Massachusetts, anyone who knowingly makes false reports to police officers "shall be punished by a fine of not less than one hundred nor more than five hundred dollars or by imprisonment in a jail or house of correction for not more than one year, or both."
If Rollins is confirmed, Massachusetts's Republican governor, Charlie Baker, will pick her replacement, who will serve through 2022.