Democrat Candidates for Bristol County Sheriff Respond to Hodgson Lawsuit
Earlier this week, Bristol County Sheriff Tom Hodgson, over two dozen of his employees, and officials from federal agencies were sued by over a dozen former detainees of Hodgson's now-defunct ICE detention facility in Dartmouth. The lawsuit follows a May 1, 2020 incident in which a confrontation between the Sheriff's and detainees resulted in multiple hospitalizations.
The incident spurred an investigation and report Attorney General Maura Healey's office which concluded the sheriff's office used excessive force in the incident, and led to the cancellation of Sheriff Hodgson's contract with ICE by the Biden Administration.
Consistent with his response to Healey's investigation and the cancellation of his office's ICE contract, Hodgson dismissed this lawsuit as a baseless political stunt.
"The recent lawsuit brought by criminal illegal aliens previously held at the Dartmouth jail is the latest political attack against me, and the latest professional attack on the dedicated, nationally accredited corrections staff at the Bristol County Sheriff’s Office," Hodgson said in a statement Tuesday night. "The frivolous lawsuit has no merit. We will vigorously defend it, and we will prevail."
However, Hodgson's opponents in the Democratic primary – Attleboro Mayor Paul Heroux, former Somerset Police Chief George McNeil, and Attorney Nick Bernier – have each expressed concern that the allegations in the lawsuit are consistent with Attorney General Healey's report, and that the multiple lawsuits Hodgson has been engaged in during his tenure are a burden to the taxpayers.
"I’m not surprised by it. He’s condoned this sort of treatment for a long time. This is why I’m running," McNeil told WBSM. "Because of the poor treatment of the people detained there – particularly the treatment of people in ICE detention.”
McNeil went on to rebuff the sheriff's claims that the lawsuit and allegations made against his office were purely politically motivated and said this litigation and cost to the taxpayer isn't necessary with a well-run department.
“It was a pretty specific accounting on what happened. It’s not all propaganda," McNeil said. "I know people who were recently refused medical treatment in his detention. That just opens up the sheriff's department to a multitude of litigation and that is obviously passed on to the taxpayers. Those expenses to the tax payers can be avoided. These things can be avoided with proper treatment, proper rehabilitation."
Bernier told WBSM that the complaint and Healey's report outlines an excessive use of force and challenged Hodgson's classification of the plaintiffs as "criminal illegal aliens" as many of them are legal residents.
“We need a change," Bernier said. "According to the complaint and to the Attorney General’s investigation, the incumbent sheriff used improper force against a detained individual, an individual that ended up being legally here. Force may need to be used at times but the use of canines and the individual displays of anger as described must be managed."
Heroux, a former corrections administrator, said that the behavior alleged in the complaint and Healey's report by Hodgson's office are violating a foundational constitutional right, and echoed similar sentiments on the cost of litigation overburdening the taxpayer.
"While this has not yet been adjudicated, the allegations are consistent with the report published by the state Attorney General," Heroux told WBSM. "Hodgson doesn’t seem to understand that a ban on cruel and unusual punishment is so much part of our identity as a nation, the Founders included it as the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution."
"Violations of the Eighth Amendment under the hands of Sheriff Hodgson are going to cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal representation, and millions of dollars in settlements or tens of millions of dollars in a loss, which seems likely," Heroux added. "While there was enough reason before to remove Hodgson from office this November, there is even more reason now."