February 22, 2017

State of Politics: New fentanyl law puts first 2 behind bars, Gonzalez eyes funds for governor bid as Healey deflects rumored run

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Antonio Caban/State House News Service

Attoney General Maura Healey

State of Politics is an occasional collection of news and notes from on and around Beacon Hill compiled from the latest reports by State House News Service.


In the first conviction under the state’s new fentanyl trafficking law, two Lawrence men pleaded guilty on Friday to running a trafficking ring out of a home in that city, Attorney General Maura Healey announced Tuesday

Regla Santana, who also goes by the name Miguel Carrasquillo, and Antonio Rivera were both sentenced by Essex Superior Court Judge Thomas Drechsler to terms of three to four years in state prison, less than half of what prosecutors recommended for sentencing.

“Fentanyl caused opioid-related deaths in Massachusetts to skyrocket to nearly 2,000 last year,” Healey said. “My office is continuing to work hard on all fronts to combat this epidemic, including going after drug traffickers who pump this deadly drug onto our streets.”

The convictions were the first under a new law that made trafficking fentanyl a crime in February 2016. Prior to the passage of that law, defendants could only be charged with manufacturing, distributing or possessing fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is 50 times to 100 times more powerful than morphine.

Authorities began an investigation into Santana and Rivera in February 2016 that led to their arrest in April on charges of trafficking fentanyl and conspiracy to violate the Controlled Susbtances Act. Police seized approximately 82 grams of fentanyl from the house in Lawrence where they were selling the drug along with seven pounds of narcotic mixing cut and materials known to be associated with drug packaging and distribution.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health estimates that 1,979 people died from opioid overdoses in 2016. Of the 70 percent of cases for which there was a toxicology screen available, 75 percent tested positive for fentanyl.

Healey’s office had sought sentences of eight to nine years for Santana, 49, and nine to 10 years for Rivera, 48. The state’s case against a third defendant in the case – Milciades Castillo-Franco – is still pending.

— Matt Murphy


Democrat Jay Gonzalez launched his campaign for governor three weeks ago, and next Tuesday he will host his first Boston fundraiser at a Downtown Crossing restaurant as he works to build a campaign that might be able to compete in 2018 against Gov. Charlie Baker.

Gonzalez, in an email to supporters, said his campaign would host the event at Central Bistro on Summer Street at 6 p.m. next Tuesday.

“It’s been an exciting three weeks since I launched my campaign for governor of Massachusetts. I’ve really enjoyed connecting with people all across the Commonwealth; listening to your concerns and joining you in the fight for our progressive values. We are just getting started. I hope you’ll join us and celebrate the start of our grassroots campaign next Tuesday,” Gonzalez wrote in the email.

Since becoming the first Democrat to enter the 2018 gubernatorial race, Gonzalez has banked about $34,000 in donations, many coming from Boston lawyers, healthcare executives and former staff to Gov. Deval Patrick, who worked with Gonzalez in the administration.

Baker, who has more than $4.7 million in the bank, was in Florida over the weekend hosting a pair of fundraisers for his likely re-election campaign, and also plans to raise money in Washington, D.C., when he travels there later this week for the National Governors Association winter meetings.

Though Gonzalez may trail Baker significantly in money on hand, the other Democrat publicly exploring a run for governor, Newton Mayor Setti Warren, reported only $77,634 in his campaign account through Feb. 15.

— Matt Murphy


Attorney General Maura Healey attempted to squash persistent chatter that she may run for governor in 2018, telling a radio audience Tuesday that the role of attorney general has never been more important.

“You know as lawyers sometimes you get in the courtroom and the other side objects and they say ‘asked and answered.’ That’s a little how I feel on this one,” Healey said on WGBH’s Boston Public Radio. “I’m running for reelection. I think that my job as attorney general, it’s never been as important as it is now to do my job and do my job well. Certainly we have our hands full, so that’s what I’m focused on.”

Healey, who was a political newcomer when she won an upset over Warren Tolman in the Democratic primary for attorney general in 2014, had previously said she intends to run for a second term in 2018. But a slow-to-develop Democratic field for governor has given life to speculation that Healey could run for governor.

Later on during her monthly “Ask the AG” radio segment, a caller who identified himself as Jeremy from Quincy noted Healey’s “stealthy and clever” answer and gave her another opportunity to announce a run for higher office.

“Jeremy, whether you ask it or Margery asks it or Jim asks it, the answer remains the same: I plan to run for re-election,” Healey said, referring to co-hosts Margery Eagan and Jim Braude.

— Colin A. Young

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