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What you need to know about DA Hayden’s grand jury investigation into the Transit Police coverup

A traffic incident last year led to false reports, officers being fired, and contradicting statements from lawyers and the Suffolk DA.

Interim Suffolk County District Attorney Kevin Hayden participates in a debate with City Councilor Ricardo Arroyo at More Than Words Bookstore in Boston on Tuesday. Erin Clark/Boston Globe

On Wednesday, Suffolk District Attorney Kevin Hayden announced that his office will open a grand jury investigation into the case involving an alleged coverup by Transit Police officers. The latest proceedings stem from an April 2021 incident where an off-duty transit officer allegedly pointed his gun at a man during a traffic dispute. The announcement comes just days after a Boston Globe report detailed the incident, the coverup that followed, and differing account of whether or not Hayden planned to drop the case against those officers. 

“I understand that today’s announcement will be perceived as a reaction to media reports. I cannot control perceptions. But I can assure everyone that this action would be happening on the same timeline regardless of what attention this investigation did or didn’t attract,” Hayden said in a statement.

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To understand the full context of Hayden’s announcement one must start at the beginning when police cars pulled up behind Jason Leonor in Mattapan last spring.

Initial incident

Leonor, a 33-year-old Hispanic Black man, was driving on Blue Hills Parkway in Milton toward Mattapan on the afternoon of April 11, 2021. Leonor, according to the Globe, was returning home after attending the funeral service of his younger brother, who died suddenly in his sleep. Frustrated by a slow driver in front of him, Leonor passed on the left and returned to his original lane. Leonor then glanced into his rearview, and saw the other driver appearing to take a photo of Leonor’s car. 

Leonor told the Globe that he grew concerned about what this driver would do with the photo, since Leonor has a large following on social media. So he got out of his own car and approached the other driver to ask why there were photos being taken. 

The other driver, a white off-duty transit officer named Jacob Green, then rolled down his window and pointed a gun at Leonor. “Get the [expletive] back!” Green shouted, according to Leonor, who then ran back to his car and called 911. Leonor frantically told the operator that another driver had pulled a gun on him, and was still in a car behind him. 

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Green later described Leonor’s driving as “unsafe,” and that he opened his door “violently” before charging at Green’s vehicle while screaming. 

“I was in fear of an imminent attack,” Green wrote, according to the Globe. “I removed my firearm from my off duty holster and held it on my lap.” 

Green added that he did not identify himself as a police officer. He was in a personal vehicle while wearing a sweatshirt over his uniform, according to a search warrant affidavit obtained by the Globe

The two kept driving into Mattapan. Green called another officer to pull Leonor over, the Globe reported. He then approached Leonor’s car again, this time in uniform. Green cited Leonor for a marked lanes violation. 

Leonor remained on the line with a 911 operator. On that call, according to the Globe, Leonor can be heard saying  “It was you?” to Green, then asking  “Why’d you pull out a gun on me?!”

Obscuring the truth

A few hours after the incident, cellphone records show that Green called Kevin Davis, another Transit Police officer. Davis, according to the Globe, wrote a police report of his own, claiming to have witnessed the entire interaction from his own car, also while off-duty. Davis said he thought Leonor was going to assault Green, but decided to stay in his car in order to act as a witness. Green wrote two police reports of his own. 

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Transit Police officials now say that all three reports written by Green and Davis were false. They found the reports suspicious at first, and then brought the case to Rachael Rollins’s office, who was then serving as Suffolk district attorney.  

Rollins launched an investigation, the Globe reported. A member of the Special Prosecutions Unit was designated to oversee the case, and Transit Police obtained a search warrant for Green’s and Davis’s phones. Davis was later fired by Transit Police leaders for his role in the coverup. 

A change at the top

In early 2022, Rollins became US Attorney for Massachusetts. In her place, Gov. Charlie Baker appointed Kevin Hayden to finish her term. Hayden is now running against City Councilor Ricardo Arroyo in the Democratic primary for Suffolk County District Attorney on Sept. 6. 

When Hayden took over, he indicated to the Globe that he would have no qualms about  “engaging in the appropriate scrutiny” of police officers that have had misconduct allegations filed against them. Beginning in 2019, Rollins did not shy away from examining such allegations. 

Hayden soon hired former prosecutor and defense attorney Kevin Mullen as his first assistant. Other changes followed. The DA’s Special Prosecutions Unit, typically tasked with prosecuting law enforcement officials, lost three prosecutors this spring. Those positions have not yet been filled, according to the Globe

While new faces came into play at the DA’s office, Green has been on paid leave. This month, he formally notified the department of his intent to resign in September. 

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Transit Police officials told the Globe that the case was headed towards prosecution this spring, but that the case lost momentum within Hayden’s office. 

Differing accounts

Green’s attorney, Robert Griffin, told the paper that he got word from Mullen that the case was done. 

“Kevin Mullen’s exact words were, ‘I have no appetite to prosecute this case,’” Griffin told the Globe. He also filed a sworn affidavit in Boston Municipal Court. 

Hayden’s office, in response, said that Griffin’s affidavit is “not true,” according to the Globe. It’s a serious accusation. If proven, it could lead to Griffin’s disbarment. 

Griffin stuck by his account, and shared text messages he exchanged with Mullen to the paper. Davis’s attorney, Anthony Riccio also said he had a conversation with Mullen where Mullen told Riccio that Davis would likely not be prosecuted. 

Hayden’s office gave multiple responses to the Globe, first saying that Mullen never told Griffin that his client wouldn’t be charged, and that Griffin’s affidavit was false. Then, Hayden’s office said that Griffin had, in fact, recounted Mullen’s literal words but misunderstood their meaning. Finally, the DA’s office said a clerical mistake led to an omission in its original answers, and that the office meant to say that its general counsel spoke with Griffin and Mullen and determined that Griffin misunderstood Mullen.

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Griffin called this “pure spin, and dishonest” in an interview with the Globe.

Money matters

Complicating matters even further is an issue surrounding political donations made to Hayden’s campaign by Green and Griffin. Those donations were made, according to the Globe, just days after Griffin apparently was told by Mullen that the DA’s office wouldn’t be pursuing charges. 

Griffin told the paper that the donations had nothing to do with the case, and that he has been a longtime supporter of Hayden. 

Hayden has said that he would return these donations, totaling $225. A spokesperson from Hayden’s office told the Globe that these donations were a “potential conflict of interest,” and that Hayden did not solicit the funds from Griffin or Green. There is no record of any communication between Hayden and Griffin or Green about the donations, the spokesperson told the paper. 

“Kevin Hayden solicited that donation himself, from me,” Griffin said. “He asked me for financial help. I didn’t make that on my own. He called me.”

Latest developments

In the release issued Wednesday, Hayden reiterated that his office inherited this investigation from the prior administration, and that it has always remained open and active. 

“Our announcement today comes amid questions about this investigation and the path it took toward a determination to seek charges. It is important to note that there was never any action taken to close this investigation,” Hayden said. 

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He continued to allude to reports of Mullen’s interactions with the attorneys representing Green and Davis, saying that the final decision to pursue charges in any investigation rests with him and him alone. 

“There have been reports of discussions regarding this investigation between members of my office and people outside my office. Those reports may have led to the perception that this investigation was not moving forward. Nothing could be further from the truth. This case has remained open and active because I never had any intention of closing it, or made any decision to close it,” Hayden said.

Hayden also responded to the issue of campaign donations. 

“I would not jeopardize my integrity, or the integrity of this office, by agreeing in any way to end an investigation because of campaign donations, as has been suggested,” he said. 

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