bryon hefner, mass state house, sexual assault, sen rosenberg
Bryon Hefner pleaded not guilty on Tuesday morning to all 10 charges at his arraignment in Suffolk Superior Court. Photo: Pool Photo/Jonathan Wigg

The man at the center of a scandal that has rocked the Massachusetts Senate appeared in Suffolk Superior Court Tuesday and pleaded not guilty to indecent assault and battery, open and gross lewdness and dissemination of an illicit nude photograph.

 

During a court appearance just around the corner from the State House, Assistant Clerk Magistrate Lisa Medeiros ordered Bryon Hefner to stay away from the grounds of the state capitol. Medeiros and the attorneys for Hefner also agreed on a March 2019 date for Hefner's trial, which means the potentially explosive case will unfold after this year's elections.

 

The prosecution also shed more light on the crimes that Hefner allegedly committed, filing a statement of the case that details incidents involving four male victims.

 

The turmoil over Hefner's alleged crimes committed against men with business on Beacon Hill led his husband, Amherst Democrat Sen. Stan Rosenberg, to resign from the presidency in early December. The Senate Ethics Committee launched an investigation into whether Rosenberg broke any rules and Rosenberg said in January that he and Hefner have separated.

 

Attorney Tracy Miner said Hefner looks forward to upcoming court proceedings.

 

"Mr. Hefner Rosenberg has pled not guilty to the charges and looks forward to defending himself in a court of law where accusers cannot remain anonymous and must face cross-examination," Miner said in a written statement she distributed outside of court. "Unfortunately, he has already been pilloried in the press for political purposes, having never had a trial."

Assistant Attorney General Jennifer Snook said Hefner is charged with a "pattern" of assault that "spanned several years," and she said he "targeted both young men and older men."

In June 2015, Hefner allegedly groped a man identified as Person 1 through his clothes at Hefner's Beacon Hill condominium. Person 1 pushed Hefner's hand away, and at one point Hefner unzipped the man's pants, according to the statement of the case. The man escaped to a bathroom where he stayed until a mutual friend arrived.

The following April, traveling between a political event to another event in Boston, Hefner allegedly groped Person 1 in the backseat of a car, and the man pushed him away, saying, "Screw off." At dinner at the Boston event the two were seated next to each other, and Hefner again grabbed the man's genitals through his clothes and without his consent, according to the prosecution.

In August 2016 at a birthday party on an apartment building's roof deck, Hefner allegedly told a man, identified as Person 2, that he was "hot," and then later as people were leaving Hefner pulled him close and "kissed him aggressively on the lips without his consent."

Another man identified by the prosecution as Person 3 became "close friends" with Hefner after the two met in June 2014, according to the prosecution. Sometime that fall at Hefner's condo, Hefner stuck his hands in Person 3's underwear before Person 3 pushed him away and retreated to the bathroom, according to prosecutors who say the two remained friends after that even though Person 3 was angry.

In June 2016, Person 1 held a party that Person 3 planned to attend, but he told Person 3 that Hefner was not welcome. Instead, Person 3 took Hefner to his own apartment in Boston and told him to wait in the living room while he rested, but Hefner allegedly tried to climb into bed with him and then "dropped his own pants to his ankles" exposing his private parts, according to the prosecution. Person 3 ordered Hefner out of his home and "soon after found that the front door was wide open and the defendant was gone," prosecutors wrote.

The final victim in the case – identified as Person 4 – met Hefner in 2011 and attended a days-long conference with Hefner in December 2013, where he recalled drinking a lot of alcohol one night and being in a hotel suite with Hefner.

"When Person 4 awoke the next morning, he was naked and alone in his own hotel room bed, with no memory of how he got there," prosecutors wrote. Later Person 4 learned that Hefner had nude photos of him, according to prosecutors.

Boston and State Police located four people who reported that from December 2013 through 2015 Hefner showed them images on his cellphone of Person 4 with his private parts exposed, and that Hefner "did so in a casual and boastful manner."

After allegations were printed in the Boston Globe, the case against Hefner was investigated by Attorney General Maura Healey's office and the office of Suffolk District Attorney Dan Conley.

Under an agreement between lawyers on both sides, Hefner was ordered to stay away from the victims and stay away from witnesses in the case "excluding two parties who are known to both the Commonwealth and the defendant," Snook said.

The Senate Ethics Committee probe, conducted by the law firm Hogan Lovells at a cost of at least $230,000, has reached its "end phase," a high-ranking Senate official told the News Service Monday.

Hefner's attorney cited a scheduling conflict with an earlier trial date in January 2019 that the clerk suggested. Hefner was indicted by a grand jury on March 29 on five counts of assault and battery, one count of open and gross lewdness, and four counts of disseminating an illicit nude image.

On Tuesday Hefner was ordered to report twice per month by phone to probation and to surrender his passport. A pretrial conference was set for June 13 and the trial date was set for March 25, 2019.

Rosenberg, who was Senate president from January 2015 until this past December, is seeking re-election to the Senate this fall.
Chelsea Kline, a Democrat challenging Rosenberg in the primary, released a statement in response to Hefner's arraignment.

"The brave individuals who have been harmed just took a step forward on the path toward justice and healing, and I'm keeping them especially close to my heart today," Kline said. "Now it is up to the rest of us to channel their courage and resilience, and to challenge the systems of power that enable harm and silence survivors and witnesses everywhere."