Boston, MA United States Attorney forMassachusetts Rachael Rollins speaks with the media in a conference room in the US Attorney’s office on Monday,December 19, 2022 in Boston, MA.(Staff Photo By Nancy Lane/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)
U.S. Attorney Rachael Rollins said she wants to keep a focus on beefing up anti-human-trafficking efforts — and hopes the investigations into her political actions don’t slow the office down.
Rollins, now approaching a year into her tenure as the top federal prosecutor in the state, brought in the press corps for an hour-long roundtable in which she fielded questions about the direction of the office, her priorities, the probes into her conduct and, of course, the Gardner heist.
The former Suffolk County district attorney stressed the same umbrella of topics as she did when she first took office: trafficking, specifically of people, drugs and guns.
“We’ve had more than 10 human trafficking cases in the first 11 months including sex trafficking, labor trafficking and human smuggling,” Rollins said, touting the office’s efforts and pushing back on the idea that it’s less active. “We’ve charged over three dozen fentanyl cases, 19 firearm cases and five ghost-gun cases.”
She said the human-trafficking division has staffed up to three full-time criminal prosecutors focused on it, and they expect several more sets of criminal charges soon.
On stressing that topic, she said, “It’s modern-day slavery” that’s a chief human-rights focus.
Rollins is facing investigations of her own. Her employer, the U.S. Department of Justice, is reported to have two open probes into whether she behaved improperly by attending a Democratic fundraiser this summer.
As the Herald first reported, she attended the event in Andover, and told the paper as she was walking in that “No,” she didn’t think she was breaking any rules by doing so.
The Hatch Act prohibits Senate-confirmed Department of Justice employees, as she is, from engaging in partisan political activity while on duty, in a federal facility, or using federal property.
Asked about those, she said she’s “not at liberty” to talk about any investigations into her, but, “You will hear from me when they are done.”
“My only regret is that this office has done tremendous work — I don’t want them distracted by what is what is happening with respect to me,” Rollins said.
On the subject of Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, Rollins gave no indication that her office planned to back off seeking to maintain the death penalty as the case continues through appeals.
“I don’t believe there’s any policy regarding whether we can charge the death penalty,” she said when asked if the Biden administration’s moratorium on executions has any effect on that.
The Supreme Court upheld the sentence, but some portions of the appeal are headed toward further discussion at an appellate court.
Asked about whether the U.S. attorney’s office can help more with street crime and gang violence in Boston, Rollins said, “My hope is that we can move a little bit quicker because there are communities that are being plagued with violence, right — gun violence in particular.”
She noted that federal cases are often “more complicated” and take longer than local ones on this front because they’re usually more focused on taking down the whole structure, rather than a single incident of violence, so they take longer.
She noted the wide sweep of MS-13 gang members under her predecessor Andrew Lelling, and said, “That one day we basically shut down the northeast quadrant of MS-13 in one fell swoop.”
Rollins, talking about what she hopes to have achieved next year, mentioned the famed three-decade-old art heist from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, the largest unsolved art theft in the world and a caper that’s captured the imagination of locals since it happened.
“I hope that we are talking about movement in the Gardner Museum,” Rollins said.
After the local media’s collective ears perked up, she said there is “nothing to report today,” but that she, her top deputy Joshua Levy and the FBI continue to try to make headway.
“We are hoping we are giving new blood, I would say, to task forces, and more resources,” she said.