President Biden’s nominee to lead the U.S. attorney’s office in Massachusetts is a soft-on-crime progressive who has declined to prosecute low-level offenses such as shoplifting, trespassing and drug possession.
Rachael Rollins, the district attorney for Suffolk County, was nominated by Biden on Monday and is likely to be confirmed by the Senate this fall, unless a Democratic senator votes against her.
After taking office in January 2019, Rollins released a policy memo identifying more than a dozen charges she said should be declined for prosecution entirely or recommended for diversion, such as mental health or substance abuse treatment.
Such low-level offenses included trespassing, shoplifting, larceny, disorderly conduct, receiving stolen property, driving with a suspended license, wanton or malicious destruction of property, threats, underage drinking, drug possession, possession with intent to distribute and resisting arrest.
Republicans are likely to protest Rollins’ nomination amid rising crime rates in big cities across the country and the national debate about the impact of the “defund the police” movement.
“Biden’s nominee to be a federal prosecutor effectively legalized shoplifting and possession with intent to distribute drugs,” Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., tweeted Tuesday. “Think crime is bad now? Just wait.”
During the George Floyd protests last year, Rollins helped form the Truth, Justice, and Reconciliation Commission in partnership with the Grassroots Law Project, aimed at addressing “the serious trauma inflicted by a legal system that has gone largely unchecked for generations.”
The Grassroots Law Project says police reform “must begin with defunding police and investing in communities” and advocates for the closure of “youth and adult prisons and jails,” the Washington Free Beacon reported Tuesday.
If confirmed, Rollins would become the first Black woman to serve as U.S. attorney for Massachusetts.
Sens. Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren, who recommended Rollins for the job, said they would work to get her confirmed “as quickly as possible.”
“District Attorney Rollins is a national leader on transforming the criminal justice system and shifting away from an approach based on punishment and penalization to one that combats the root causes of injustice, whether it be poverty, substance use, or racial disparity,” they said in a joint statement Monday.