Judge Maria Lopez created an uproar in the Mary Ellen McCormack Housing Development in the fall of 2000 when she sentenced Charles “Ebony” Horton to five years of probation and one year of house arrest at the development where hundreds of families and children reside.
Horton, who dresses as a woman, had pled guilty to kidnapping an 11-year-old boy, threatening him with a screwdriver, and attempting to rape him in Dorchester.
Lopez came under fire throughout the state because of the leniency of her sentence and for her televised tongue-lashing of a prosecutor who objected to the light sentence.
During that televised exchange, Lopez called the assault a “very low-level” crime and angrily ordered the prosecutor to sit down and be quiet. Earlier, she had prevented photographers from taking any photos of Horton’s face, prompting claims that she was much more concerned about the defendant than about the 11-year-old boy and his family.
Last year, Lopez was charged by the state Commission on Judicial Conduct with violations stemming from her handling of that case and her attempts to quell the clamor that her behavior and rulings had caused.
The hearing officer, retired Judge George Daher, found last Tuesday that Lopez had lied under oath while testifying at the misconduct hearing and that she had attempted to protect herself by spreading damaging rumors about the young victim, falsely implying that he was a street-wise and troubled boy who had gone willingly with Horton.
Daher also found that Lopez had shown “bias against and disdain toward” prosecutors in the case and that she had issued false public statements to deflect criticism of her conduct.
In his decision, which was released last Tuesday, Daher wrote that Lopez told the prosecutor and defense counsel that she knew transgendered people and that they were not violent. Her husband, Stephen Mindich, is publisher of the Boston Phoenix, a weekly newspaper known for sex ads promoting so-called alternative lifestyles.
Daher wrote: “Judge Lopez’s stereotyping of transgendered people is offensive, dangerous and inconsistent with the Code of Judicial Conduct. The suggestion that any group of people is or is not violent, cuts against the very principle that rights and responsibilities are accorded to each and every individual.”
Last month, the state’s Sex Offender Registry Board classified Horton, who is now 24 and homeless, as among the state’s most dangerous sexual predators. The classification requires authorities to alert neighbors and schools of Horton’s presence.
When residents of the McCormack development learned of Lopez’s ruling in September 2000, they passed out flyers reading: “Please keep an eye on your children and all children in the neighborhood.”
Terry Farrell, head of the tenants task force, told the Echo at that time that, in addition to being concerned about the children, she was worried about a 90-year-old Irish woman who lived just above Horton. According to Farrell, the elderly resident and other tenants had been complaining for months about Horton’s wild parties.
Another resident of the McCormack project, Dolly Lowe, told the Echo at that time that she hoped the Boston Housing Authority would evict Horton soon. “And they should get rid of that judge too, ” she said.
Lowe’s view about the judge is now gaining favor around the state, with newspaper editorialists and columnists calling for Lopez to step down permanently from the bench.
The Commission on Judicial Conduct will make its own recommendations in September to the state Supreme Judicial Court, which will ultimately decide Lopez’s fate.