Elections & Results
See historic Lowell election results and candidate biographies.
Appreciation of CBA Director Yun-Ju Choi
By Charlie Gargiulo
Earlier this month, Yun-Ju Choi, who has served as the Coalition for a Better Acre’s (CBA) Executive Director since 2014, announced that she will be stepping down next June. In her statement announcing her decision to resign from CBA, Yun-Ju showed the compassion, honor and dignity that has made her such an excellent leader when she stated, “It’s now time to focus on caring for my parents, who sacrificed so much to make sure my siblings and I had futures full of possibility. It is a privilege to do so.”
It is a PRIVILEGE to do so. That moving statement sums up beautifully why Yun-Ju has been such an amazing leader for CBA and the Lowell community over the past decade. It is the statement of a moral leader.
As CBA’s Executive Director, Yun-Ju Choi has strengthened CBA financially and successfully implemented many innovative and important new affordable housing projects, expanded CBA’s reach and services and eloquently spoke out with moral purpose and clarity on social justice issues while working hard to empower community residents. She has built and led a talented, committed staff that works with such competence and harmony that I feel inspired every time I have an opportunity to meet them.
Yun-Ju Choi’s decade long tenure as CBA’s Executive Director has not only cemented her legacy in CBA history, it has gained her the respect she richly deserves nationally among professional community development experts.
In addition to maintaining & expanding affordable housing and providing valuable community services, I am extremely impressed with how Yun-Ju has rekindled the spirit and determination of CBA’s original purpose to unify, educate, inspire and build a community of people who believe in decency and justice for all.
Personally, I will always be grateful to Yun-Ju for the compassionate support she provided me during the darkest moment of my life when I lost my beloved son Charlie Jr. in 2019. When I was barely hanging on, Yun-Ju reached out to me and helped mobilize support on behalf of me and my grieving family.
This was the same kind of community spirit I later saw her and CBA staff bring to bear on behalf of the community during the Covid crisis as she and the CBA staff jumped into action to keep resources flowing for the community amidst the isolation and fear.
When I founded CBA in 1982 it was my dream that we could rebuild the kind of caring community that I experienced in Little Canada before it was destroyed by urban renewal.
I want to thank Yun-Ju Choi for not only maintaining that vision but for her success in making it a reality.
From Darkness Into Light—Thankful Tonight
By Ed DeJesus
Tuesday, November 9, 1965, began like every school morning—but it sure ended differently for this fifteen-year-old boy from Lowell, Mass.
I was fortunate to grow up in a ten-room, two-story tenement on Cambridge Street that my Dad, a WWII Vet, bought with a VA loan in 1950 and converted to a single-family. The noisy steam radiators didn’t always warm the drafty linoleum floors, but my three siblings and I had it good. My mornings started with the quick tempo of the Beatles bridge in “A Day In The Life,”
Woke up, fell out of bed, dragged a comb across my head…
Found my coat and grabbed my hat, made the bus in seconds flat…
But I never wore a hat or took the bus. Instead, I walked two extra miles before and after school for the job I held in my sophomore and junior years. I rushed out the back door at 6:50 a.m., my brisk pace necessary to make the 1.2-mile leg to my first stop by 7:10. It was chilly, and I had to be careful not to slip on the morning frost. I pulled my hood up and tucked my hands inside the pockets of my lined vinyl jacket—worn over my required school dress code, a burgundy V-neck sweater, button-down blue shirt, and paisley tie—it kept me warm and dry.
We lived in a section of Lowell called the Lower Highlands, and I headed to the Upper Highlands. I rushed up Cambridge Street, turned left on Hale, and passed by the Abraham Lincoln Monument in the center of Lincoln Square. I dodged traffic and bolted across busy Chelmsford Street. I hiked up the steep Liberty Street hill, crossed Smith, Powell, and School streets, and turned right onto Hastings, which brought me to Cupples Square by Pages Drug Store at Pine and Westford Street. The Timex on my wrist showed five minutes to my destination. I took a right down Dover Street to Dover Square at the intersection of Branch and Middlesex Street. I crossed to Middlesex, headed left, and walked briskly until I reached Wilder Street’s corner.
At ten past seven, I rang the side doorbell of the stately two-family Victorian home. I heard the heavy footsteps of my hefty boss cautiously descending the back hallway stairs. “Good morning, Eddie,” he cheerfully greeted me and locked the door from a key chain attached to his belt.
“Morning, George,” I said, then hooked his left arm with my right arm and guided him down the porch steps and along the walkway to Wilder before steering him left onto Middlesex. I kept George on the inside, away from the street. Arm in arm and lockstep, we began our mile-long journey towards the downtown Lowell Workshop for the Blind on Middlesex Street. George Zermas and seven other visually impaired coworkers made straw brooms and strung wicker chairs from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The modest-looking shop had a storefront window with a Lowell Association for the Blind sign and its touching tagline: From Darkness Into Light.
Big, burly, jovial George was forty-two, nearly six feet, and weighed over two hundred pounds. I was only five-three then, but with strong legs and a stocky one-thirty-three frame, I had beaten everyone in my weight class. Coach Bossi wanted me on his wrestling team, but when I explained that I had an essential after-school job, he nodded and never asked again.
I’d never seen George use a white cane or seeing-eye dog like other blind men. He preferred conversation and companionship. I was happy to oblige my Greek philosophical boss. He was therapeutic; he let me open up and talk about my family, friends, and relationships.
“How come so quiet today, Eddie?” George asked softly, tilting his head in my direction as we walked briskly. I replied, “I left my English book at home and have a test today.”
“Oh good,” he chuckled, poking me with his elbow. “I thought you were having trouble with your girlfriend, Suzy.”
I didn’t want to share with George that the brief romance—between cute-as-a-button, too-shy Suzy and I—had faded quickly on our Saturday night rendezvous in the cozy private seats in the rear of the Commodore Ballroom. The sweet, innocent, French brunette from Pawtucketville with the turned-up nose and irresistibly perfect lips wasn’t as receptive to making out as the more assertive girls I’d dated from the housing projects, the Flats, and back Central Street.
Knowing George was a polished Tenor in a Lowell Barbershop Quartet, I asked him, “What songs did you sing Saturday?”
“Let Me Call You Sweetheart. And, of course, Shine on Harvest Moon,” he said gleefully. “Of course, it’s that time of year,” I said.
As one of my earliest mentors, I appreciated George’s wisdom. Blind from birth—but with an enormous brail library in his second-floor apartment—he was intellectual. As was his sister Penelope, who lived on the first floor with her husband Peter Demogenes, co-owner of the Epicure Restaurant on the corner of Market and Central Street. Penelope was Valedictorian at Lowell High, class of ‘38, and was a Professor Emerita at UMass Lowell, College of Education.
George and I were near Washington Park—now known as Roberto Clemente Park—on Middlesex Street when we heard the beep of the bread route driver, who slowed and offered us a ride. It never mattered how cold it was; I watched the vapor come out of his mouth as he routinely declined. The city bus loaded with my Lowell High classmates from the Upper H ighlands passed by; I kept my head down under my hood and pretended I didn’t see them gawking at us. It wouldn’t happen today; no kids would look up from their phones.
The most challenging part of our journey was getting George safely across the hectic rotary and dual intersections known as the Lord Overpass that spanned Thorndike Street. A rotary for anyone outside New England was a roundabout, only crazier.
There were no traffic lights then. I gripped George’s arm tighter while we hurried across the rotary and descended the ramp on Middlesex Street. We passed by the Registry of Motor Vehicles building, and two doors beyond the Workshop for The Blind, we entered Picanso’s Café, where George had breakfast every morning. Along with my modest per diem pay, George would buy me a cup of coffee and an English muffin, which only cost a quarter then. I got George settled in a booth; the Portuguese owner, Arthur Picanso, asked George how he wanted his eggs today. Mr. Picanso treated me well, as he knew my dad—Tony DeJesus, pronounced Dee Geezus—was the first President of the Portuguese American Club on Charles Street.
I’d finished my muffin and was sipping coffee. George was still working on his scrambled eggs and sausage links. He reminded me, “Tonight is Dicky Doyle’s surprise birthday party. Be here at five-fifteen.” Dick, the oldest blind man at the workshop, was turning sixty. Instead of getting George by 4:30 when the shop closed, I’d come to Picanso’s.
George pulled out his wallet to pay the check. It had a change pocket that snapped shut, and he knew every coin’s value by its size. In his billfold, the singles were kept flat, the fives folded in half, the tens folded in half length-wise, and the rare twenties were folded in thirds. He never accepted deuces or large bills. His sister would drive him to work if I were sick. Except for snow days, I had perfect attendance. Aside from two weeks in July when the workshop was closed, I was George’s weekday guide for the other fifty.
George sipped his bottomless cup, and other visually impaired gentlemen arrived for coffee along with Leo, the shop’s foreman. George would be in good hands as I headed to school. Instead of taking Middlesex to Central to Merrimack, then Kirk Street, I took the shortcut through the alley to the Jackson Street mills.
I crossed Jackson, took the driveway over the Hamilton Canal, and caught a nasty whiff of whatever the mills were discharging into the black, murky water. I hustled across the Dutton Street parking lot to the red brick Market Street building that today houses Lowell’s National Historic Park, which features the amazing industrial history of the Spindle City. My grandfather immigrated to Lowell in 1890 from Madeira; my grandparents and parents all toiled in the Boot Mills.
I walked up Shattuck Street, crossed Merrimack, and entered Lowell High School by the Kirk Street Clock—just in time to get to my locker and first bell. School got out at 2:15 p.m. My close classmates and I hung out in front of the Dutch Tea Room on Merrimack Street. Most students waited across the street in front of the Bon Marché department store where the city’s busses would transport them to Lowell’s distinct neighborhoods: the Acre, Belvidere, Centralville, the Grove, Highlands, Pawtucketville, Sacred Heart, and South Lowell.
Several popular girls gathered on the sidewalk, clutching their schoolbooks, waiting for their buses to arrive. A handsome driver pulled to the curb in a sharp ’57 Chevy Bel Air with the windows down and radio blaring. An attractive senior with long black hair and shapely legs slid in the coupe and waved goodbye to her giddy friends while McCartney’s voice poured out onto Merrimack Street, “Oh, I Believe in Yesterday.”
After the busses departed and the crowds thinned, I climbed the stairs to Alex’s billiards room to shoot pool, as I did every day for over a year, biding time before I picked up George. I played snooker for an hour to sharpen my eye for future nine-ball games at fifty cents per money ball. I observed a preppy college guy take forever to beat another inexperienced player and knew I had my mark. He broke and left the table wide open. A few shorts later, I sunk the five-ball, made an extra money ball, ran the rest of the table, and collected my winnings.
I left the pool hall forty minutes later than usual to get George. It was already dusk when I entered Picanso’s café and found George and his boisterous co-workers crowded in a booth. Remnants of burgers, fries, coffee, and birthday cake littered the table and tiled floor. A bottle of Jameson and shot glasses were in front of Dick Doyle, the birthday boy; his guide, Bobby Gervais, sat next to him; Leo, the workshop foreman, and George sat across from them.
Leo handed me a napkin and a piece of chocolate cake. I thanked him and George shouted, “Eddie!” when he heard my voice. I wished Dick a happy birthday and devoured the cake. I used a napkin to wipe frosting off George’s chin, brushed crumbs from the front of his jacket, and bid goodnight to the party animals.
It was dark and chilly when we stepped onto Middlesex Street at 5:25. We walked arm and arm past the old Registry, RMV building. When we reached the Middlesex street ramp, all the lamp posts lighting the sidewalks went out. Lord, help us. It was pitch-dark as we ascended the ramp towards the Lord Overpass! Horns honked incessantly as we reached the top of the busy rotary. I looked to my left, and no lights were shining on the Commodore’s marquee billboard, and to my right, I could not see the Wilder Grain buildings by the canal. No lights were on in any of the homes ahead in the Highlands or the stores we left behind us.
I froze at the curb, hesitant to cross the first busy intersection. I pulled George tighter and tried to stop my trembling. The headlights from oncoming cars blinded me, and the panicked, hectic rush-hour drivers were struggling to adjust to the darkness. “What’s going on, Eddie,” George asked. A scent of whiskey on his breath.
“I don’t know. All the city lights are out. It’s pitch dark, and we must move quickly across the rotary. Hang on tight and keep up.” “Okay,” he shouted over the blaring horns.
I raised my free hand to stop the traffic and hustled George to the other side of the first intersection. I rushed us along, and while the horns kept honking, we repeated the process on the second section of the rotary. When we descended the ramp on the other side of Middlesex Street, I slowed down, took a deep breath, and said, “Whew, I’ve never seen anything like this.”
“It looks the same to me, ha-ha,” George said, nudging my side to calm my nerves.
Today, the cliché from George might have been, “Welcome to my world.” And at that moment, I had a partial sense of what it was like for George to navigate in his world. Candles illuminated windows on many of the triple-decker and multifamily homes we walked by on Middlesex Street. Residents sat on their front steps with cigarette lighters firing their tobacco sticks. As we approached the busy School Street light that wasn’t working, a loud, deafening roar of two motorcycle engines started up in a driveway and blinded me with their headlights. I stopped abruptly and felt George’s arm tighten. The Hell’s Angels revved their Harley Choppers, pulled out, and roared up Middlesex Street.
When my heart stopped racing, I picked up our pace and continued down Middlesex Street until we got to the corner of Wilder. I saw the shadow of someone holding a flashlight and aiming it at our feet as we approached.
“Thank God, you made it!” we heard George’s sister Penelope say as she touched his shoulder and patted my arm. She explained what she’d heard on her car radio, “The power is out in Massachusetts and several other northeast states.”
Silhouettes lingered by windows illuminated with flickering candles while I jogged home through the eerily dark side streets and sprinted across the horn-blowing main streets. My dad’s car was parked in the driveway. He’d made it home safely from his job at the VA hospital in Bedford, Mass. I entered the back door. My older sister was doing her homework on the kitchen counter by candlelight; Mom turned away from the gas stove and hugged me. Dad and my big brother in the parlor listened to the news of the northeast blackout on a transistor radio. My younger brother shined a flashlight on me and shouted, “Eddie’s home! Let’s eat. I’m starving.”
We gathered at our candle-lit dining room table. It wasn’t a feast like Thanksgiving—but before our close-knit catholic family enjoyed chicken pot pie, mashed potatoes, and biscuits—we said grace and were thankful tonight. I told them about my adventure with my boss. Mom made a sign of the cross, my big brother high-fived me, my sister and kid brother smiled, and I sensed my Dad was proud of me for getting George home safely.
My wife and I raised our family in the Lowell suburbs. I toiled in technology but kept in touch with George ‘til he passed. Each year, the Lowell Association for the Blind opens a competition for the George E. Zermas Memorial Scholarships for worthy students preparing to work with the blind and visually impaired. This memorial grant was established by his late sister, Penelope Z. Demogenes, Director Emerita, and her late husband, Peter N. Demogenes. Source: (1) Facebook
Boomers and other seniors may recall where they were when 30 million people in ten states and parts of Canada lost power in the ’65 blackout. Source: Northeast blackout of 1965 – Wikipedia
I know how disruptive power outages are, as I retired in Fort Myers, FL, and survived two category-four hurricanes and a recent heart attack. Consequently, I don’t need turkey, pumpkin pie, and football games to remind me of what I’m thankful for.
My latest contemporary novel, The Vulnerable, set in greater Lowell and Florida, pays homage to the grit and spirit of the hard-working people in the spindle city. Lastly, I’m always moved by the Bee Gee’s ballad, “Massachusetts.”
Feel I’m goin’ back to Massachusetts
Something’s telling me I must go home
And the lights all went out in Massachusetts…
And Massachusetts is one place I have seen
I will remember Massachusetts…
About the Author:
Edward (Ed) DeJesus studied Computer Science at Boston University and Creative Writing at UMass Lowell. He is a member of the Florida Gulf Coast Writer’s Association. His latest contemporary novel, The Vulnerable, is set in greater Lowell and Florida.
Ed is a former tech executive, entrepreneur, and software engineer, published in the Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Design Automation IEEE journals. He was the president of Sightline Solar, CEO and co-founder of JustZip.com, and VP of Engineering for Manufacturer’s Services Limited. He served in the US Army Reserves during the Vietnam era and was the proprietor of a record store in the seventies when vinyl and tapes were all the rage. He was a Massachusetts realtor and mortgage originator and owned several investment properties in Lowell, where he was born. He custom-designed his family’s homes in Westford, Chelmsford, and Tyngsboro, Mass, before retiring in Fort Myers, Florida.
“Use your tongue” (Speak French)
By Louise Peloquin
Before PIP #9, here’s a throwback on Thanksgiving 1944.
L’Etoile November 22, 1944
in times of war is different than that in times of peace.
Let us be grateful for our victorious armies, for those who maintain their faith in good despite oppression, for the hope of a just and durable peace, for an abundant harvest. Let us strive to always keep the traditions of this typically American holiday alive.
FIRST NATIONAL STORES SUPER Quality MARKETS (1)
In 1944, Lowell offered options to those who chose to eat out.
L’Etoile November 22, 1944
Lowell Center’s Most Comfortable Restaurant
CELEBRATE HERE THANKSGIVING DELICIOUS TURKEY DINNER
FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY
LEE’S – FAMOUS FOR CHOP SUEY, FRIED RICE AND CHOW MEIN
SPECIAL SUNDAY DINNERS
BEST SERVICE AND BEST FOOD ALWAYS AT LEE’S
Orders prepared to take out
LEE’S CHOP SUEY
7 MERRIMACK STREET
Above Schulte’s Cigar Store
JIMMY LEE WONG, Prop.
Lowell Center’s Most Comfortable Restaurant
Go have fun at the Tremont Café on the eve of Thanksgiving
- Good cocktails
- Good wines
- Various liquors
Corner of Tremont and Moody Streets
Use your tongue (PIP #9)
Last week’s November 14th peek into the past showed how many young Lowellians had courageously served in World War 1, among them many Franco-Americans. The latter’s bilingualism was an asset on battle fields in the Somme, L’Aisne and other hot spots.
The first excerpt reports on French teaching to the military.
The second brings up a diehard debate about linguistic “purity.”
L’Etoile, July 9, 1917
Teaching French to the Military
The Massachusetts Public Education Bureau will have French courses given to American soldiers of the state bound for France. This fact proves once again that the knowledge of French cannot harm anyone, on the contrary. Franco-Americans, urged at times to abandon their mother tongue because English is the official language in this country, would be very mistaken to listen to these people who, most of the time, having lost their own language, demonstrate the renegade’s zeal to engage others to follow their bad example.
Knowing two languages, said an eminent pedagogue, is being twice the human being. There is certainly a superiority in whoever masters English and French, as the Franco-American conscripts will realize once they are in France. They will find it very practical and even advantageous to know how to speak French.
If Mr. Harold Gosselin, a young compatriot from New Hampshire, was named secretary of General Pershing’s staff in France, it is precisely because he knows both languages well. It is a great honor, owed in large part to his knowledge of French.
The time has therefore come to congratulate ourselves for having the intelligence and the common sense, despite the chauvinists and the short-sighted francophobes, to conserve… this beautiful heritage, this sweet language which comes to us from our ancestors’ country, the land we are called today to defend, along with other Americans, against Teutonic barbarity.
We shall thus continue to have our children learn French, without prejudice to English, which is the official language of this republic….
To conclude, here is information on the French courses for the military:
The project received approval from General Sweetser, commander in chief of the National Guard troops of our state. These instructors will all be French-language American citizens who are not of military age and therefore are not concerned by the enlistment. The courses were prepared by the French officials who presently manage the Harvard University officer training school. These courses will include daily conversation and teaching military terms and expressions. The American officers and soldiers will be taught about French currency and measurements, French army formations, French geographical terms.
The Federal Government will pay for the instruction given to the troops.
The regular army troops will be able to follow this teaching exactly like the National Guard. Special attention will be given to pronunciation. Each class will be made up of 20 students.
All of the officers seem to be enthusiastic about the Public Education Bureau project. The instructors will soon be named. It is assured that many French-origin Americans will be among them.
The favour which the French language presently enjoys in Massachusetts has spread all the way to the state of New York. Indeed, dispatches inform us that the many French-language merchants of Plattsburg, where the vast officer training camp is located, have resolved to speak only French to the members of the military who patronize their establishments in order to teach them to converse in this language.
We know that two thirds of Plattsburg’s population is made up of people whose fathers came from Canada.
Police Chief Sénécal gave the order to all Franco-American agents to respond in French to all questions posed by the men in uniform….
This great war will have an unexpected result in the United States by familiarising hundreds of thousands of American officers and soldiers with the French language. We are convinced that upon their return from France – those who will not have fallen on the field of honor, of course – proud of having been able to express themselves in French, will honor us with their esteem for having preserved … the beautiful language which they will have learned to love, and they will then realize that the legend of a French-Canadian “patois” was only a myth.
It is indeed the case to say – out of bad comes good; every cloud has a silver lining. (2)
L’Etoile, July 14, 1917
The Canadian Dialect
Many people are lead into error by the Courrier-Citizen’s Washington correspondent who announced that Mr. François-Xavier Delisle, private secretary of Lowell Congressman Rogers, had just entered into General Pershing’s staff as interpreter with the rank of lieutenant because of his knowledge of pure French and of the Canadian DIALECT.
The term “dialect” mystified many people.
It is obvious that Mr. Delisle is simply speaking of the French which he learned with his family and on the benches of the Collège Saint Joseph with his other classmates. This knowledge of French won him the post of interpreter and we congratulate him. The Courrier-Citizen should have simply mentioned the fact that Mr. Delisle speaks and writes French without uselessly adding his “Canadian dialect” which leads to believe that the dialect spoken in Franco-American communities and in the province of Québec essentially differs from real French.
The legend of the Canadian patois is difficult to uproot, which explains why we are a bit touchy in this respect.
But the fact is that we speak a French dialect in the strict meaning of the word, much like the inhabitants of Brittany speak the Breton dialect and the inhabitants of other French provinces express themselves in their own dialect. Naturally, they all speak French. According to the dictionaries, a dialect is a regional variety of a national language. There is the Parisian dialect, otherwise known as “Parisian French” which is so dear to Americans who believe to have learned it in high school.
Webster says that a dialect is a way of speaking which is particular to a region, like the English dialect in Yorkshire. Kitteridge adds that a dialect is not a “corrupt literary language.”
The inhabitants of the United States have their dialect, that of Boston differs slightly from that of New York, from that of Chicago, of New Orleans, of San Francisco. But no one would claim that the language generally spoken in the United States is not English. Why then would the Canadians of Québec and the Franco-Americans not speak French?
Mr. Delisle does not know any language other than that which his compatriots in Lowell and in New England speak in their homes. That is his “pure French” and we are convinced that he will be able to make himself better understood by the French people in France than the high school students who imagined they learned “Parisian French.”
- This as well as all following translations by Louise Peloquin.
- In French – “A quelque chose malheur est bon.”
The Lowell City Council met this past Tuesday night with the most anticipated part of the meeting being the roll call at the very start. That is when the public learned that Councilor Corey Robinson, who had been arrested several days earlier, would not be physically present at the meeting nor would he participate remotely via Zoom.
Here is the statement released by the Dracut Police Department about Robinson’s arrest:
Corey Robinson, 46 of Lowell has been charged with two counts of assault and battery on a household or family member in connection with allegedly assaulting a female victim who is known to him at a Dracut residence on November 15, 2023. He was arraigned in Lowell District Court on November 16, a dangerousness hearing was also held that day. Judge Michael Fabbri found Robinson dangerous and ordered him released on conditions to obey all laws and court orders, not to possess any firearms or weapons, not to leave the state of Massachusetts, surrender his passport, maintain employment, stay away from, have no contact and not abuse the victim, be placed on a GPS monitoring device. The next date in this case is January 11, 2024.
The crimes that Robinson is alleged to have committed are covered by Massachusetts General Laws chapter 265, section 13M, which states “Whoever commits an assault or assault and battery on a family or household member shall be punished by imprisonment in the house of correction for not more than 2 1/2 years or by a fine of not more than $5,000, or both such fine and imprisonment.” The statute further defines “family or household member” to include persons who “are of have been in a substantial dating or engagement relationship.”
The dangerousness hearing referred to by the Dracut Police is covered by MGL c. 276, s.58A. That law permits the prosecution, in certain types of cases including those with allegations of abuse against a family or household member, to request a judge to hold an evidentiary hearing to determine the defendant’s dangerousness and then impose on the defendant an order of pretrial detention or to release the defendant from custody under certain conditions.
According to the Boston Globe (“Lowell city councilor charged with domestic assault and battery”),
Judge Michael Fabbri found Robinson fit the legal criteria for dangerousness Thursday and ordered he wear a GPS monitoring device and stay away from and have no contact with the woman he is accused of attacking while the criminal case is pending, the district attorney’s office said in an email Saturday.
Robinson spent Thursday night in the custody of the Middlesex Sheriff’s Office, and returned Friday to court where he was outfitted with the GPS device, court records show.
In court papers elaborating on his dangerousness ruling, Fabbri wrote that Robinson on Wednesday allegedly put his hands around the woman’s neck and pulled her hair. He described the incident as a “serious domestic assault,” and wrote that there are reports that Robinson has previously attributed suicidal statements to the woman, which she denies.
Fabbri also checked a box indicating that Robinson has a record of convictions, listing his previous offenses as resisting arrest, and acronyms for charges of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon and assault and battery on a police officer.
Robinson maintains that he is innocent of the charges. According to the Lowell Sun (“Corey Robinson vows to fight domestic violence charges”), Robinson sent a text to fellow city councilors which stated, among other things, “I 100% deny these allegations” and “I have no intention of stepping down as I know I am innocent of these charges.”
Robinson has also retained Ryan Sullivan, an accomplished criminal defense attorney, who issued a statement that said Robinson “is prepared to demonstrate his innocence in the courtroom” and that “we take these allegations extremely seriously and have no doubt that when more information is obtained in the investigation, Mr. Robinson’s innocence will be clear to all.”
A foundational principle of our criminal justice system is that anyone charged with a crime is presumed innocent unless and until their guilt is proven beyond a reasonable doubt at trial. However, history and human nature make the strict application of that rule very complicated when it comes to domestic violence charges.
For most of American history, violence between individuals in an intimate relationship was treated as a private affair with police failing to arrest perpetrators and prosecutors dismissing charges, often with disastrous and sometimes fatal consequences to the victim. That began to change in the 1990s as prosecutors and the public gained a greater understanding of the power dynamics at work in most domestic violence cases.
Keep in mind that in a criminal prosecution, it is the Commonwealth of Massachusetts on behalf of the entire community that brings charged and pursues the case with the goal of keeping the peace for everyone and punishing those who disturb that peace. With most crimes, the interests of the Commonwealth and of the victim of the crime largely coincide, but that is often not the case in a domestic violence prosecution. Many victims have strong emotional, financial, and psychological attachments to the perpetrator and even if initially cooperative with the authorities, may eventually refuse to cooperate or recant their initial statements. Similarly, victims may continue to fear their attackers, but do not believe the criminal justice system can protect them from further abuse so conclude that their safest course is to not further antagonize the perpetrator by cooperating with prosecutors.
All of this makes pursuing domestic violence prosecutions very complicated for the District Attorney’s office. Back in the 1990s when domestic violence cases faced close public scrutiny for perhaps the first time in history, some prosecutors adopted strict “no dismissal” policies. If the crime could be proven by other evidence such as testimony from other eyewitnesses, physical evidence, or statements of the defendant, the prosecution would go forward regardless of the wishes of the victim. Since then, most prosecutors, especially the Middlesex District Attorney’s office, have taken a more thoughtful and sophisticated approach to these matters in which the alleged crimes are vigorously prosecuted but the informed and supported wishes of the victim are also considered.
It’s important to remember that every case is different and unless you are in a courtroom throughout a trial, you have no idea of what the outcome of the case may be. With that caveat in mind, the early reporting in the Lowell Sun lays out some of the evidence beyond the testimony of the victim that could be used against Robinson when the case comes to trial. Here is some of what has been reported by the Sun:
According to a police report obtained by The Sun, officers responded to a 911 call of a report of a domestic argument at an apartment complex on Kilby Street at approximately 7 p.m. Wednesday. The call was placed by the woman’s attorney, who she was on the phone with when Robinson arrived at the residence, and heard the beginning of the alleged altercation, the report states.
In the police documents, neighbors stated that they heard an argument between a man and woman, including the woman screaming “you hit me.”
From her living room window, a neighbor told police that she witnessed the alleged victim and Robinson in a “heated argument.”
“I saw (the victim) running and Corey was after her,” the witness told police in a statement. “(The victim) was screaming for help while she was running.”
Responding officers stated in the report that when they arrived, Robinson was gone, but they found the alleged victim in the rear of the apartment complex with “abrasions and scratches on both sides of her neck.”
She was also bleeding from an area near the lower portion of her neck, from a fresh abrasion, just above her right collarbone, according to the police report. It noted the alleged victim was “removing leaves and clumps of loose hair from her head and began tossing it on the ground,” which the police report stated was “consistent with someone with long hair who had been in an altercation, during which having their hair violently pulled.”
The alleged victim received onsite medical attention, according to the report, and the police photographed her injuries and secured her hair and other items into evidence bags.
From an evidentiary perspective, the testimony of the neighbor who, according to the police report, witnessed Robinson chasing the victim and then the physical evidence of injury to the victim observed and captured by the police (abrasions, scratches, clumps of hair) would probably be sufficient evidence for the prosecutor to take the case to trial even if the victim was, for whatever reason, unavailable to testify (for example, the victim might prefer not to testify with the DA choosing not to compel such testimony; or the victim could conceivably assert their own Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination).
Also, according to the Sun, the Dracut Police reached Robinson by phone sometime after the incident and asked him to turn himself in at the police station but he “declined to do so.” When Dracut and Lowell Police went to Robinson’s residence in Lowell to arrest him, he was not there so they obtained an arrest warrant. Evidence of evasion of the police might also be admissible as “consciousness of guilt” evidence.
As a criminal defendant, Robinson would have no obligation to present any evidence at trial since the burden of proof is entirely on the prosecution. However, any statements made by Robinson at the time of the incident or at any other time would be admissible as evidence against him. Also, if he were to introduce evidence of his “good character”, that would open the door for the prosecution to introduce evidence to counter that including, as reported by the Sun, that in the past year the Dracut Police had responded to this residence “on five separate occasions for incidents involving (the alleged victim) and Corey.”
In any case, with Robinson’s next court appearance not until January 11, 2024, and a likely trial date at least a month after that, this matter will continue unresolved for some time.
While it is common for criminal cases to take six months to a year to be resolved, the City Council (usually) meets every Tuesday night. That likely added to the motivation of some of Robinson’s Council colleagues when they released several statements which have since been posted on the Inside Lowell website.
Councilors John Drinkwater, Wayne Jenness, John Leahy, Vesna Nuon, and Paul Ratha Yem, wrote, in part:
[W]e believe that Councilor Robinson’s continued participation in the proceedings of the City Council while the criminal litigation is ongoing would significantly erode the public trust in our elected body. Furthermore, it will serve as an unnecessary distraction from the collaborative work necessary to serve the residents of Lowell. For these reasons, we strongly urge Councilor Robinson to step aside from his position on the City Council pending the final outcome of the legal proceedings.
Councilor Kim Scott released a separate statement saying, “it is best for all involved if Councilor Robinson steps aside until the situation is resolved, especially for survivors of domestic violence who may have strong feelings about Councilor Robinson’s attendance of council meetings.”
Mayor Sokhary Chau released a statement condemning all domestic violence and promising that the Council will “closely monitor the situation and determine the best course of action for the city and residents.”
Councilor Erik Gitschier’s statement said that any matter like this that involved “personnel issues” should only be discussed in executive session.”
Councilor Dan Rourke’s statement condemned domestic violence and then said that as an employee of the court system (he’s a probation officer) it would be improper for him to comment on any case now pending before the court.
Although Councilor Rita Mercier does not have a statement on Inside Lowell, when queried by the Lowell Sun, she reportedly responded regarding Councilor Robinson’s arrest, “Only God is the Judge . . . not me.”
The Council is in unchartered territory here. I started following the Lowell City Council in 1966 and I cannot recall an instance where a sitting Councilor was arrested and prosecuted for a crime. However, there have been a handful of cases where city of Lowell officials have faced criminal charges.
In December 1942, Mayor George Ashe, who was elected by voters under the Plan B (“strong mayor”) form of government was convicted of bribery and was sentenced to serve a year in the house of correction. Ashe continued as Mayor until the day he was incarcerated. It is unclear whether any attempt was made to remove Ashe from office prior to his conviction. Ashe’s conviction may have led voters a week later to overwhelmingly support a ballot measure that changed Lowell’s form of government to the present Plan E system.
In 1975, City Manager Paul Sheehy resigned after being convicted in U.S. District Court of bank fraud arising from an incident that occurred before he became City Manager.
In 1988, former City Manager Joseph Tully (he had resigned the previous year) was convicted in U.S. District Court of attempted extortion that had allegedly occurred while he held the office of City Manager.
In 1995, School Committee member George Kouloheras was charged with assault on an 11-year-old student at the Bartlett School in an incident that allegedly occurred while Kouloheras was visiting the school in his capacity as a member of the School Committee. In a subsequent trial, a Lowell District Court jury found Kouloheras not guilty.
In 2009, School Superintendent Chris Scott sought criminal charges against School Committee member Regina Faticanti for threatening to assault Scott. A Clerk Magistrate in the Lowell District Court found probable cause and issued a criminal complaint. While the case was pending, Faticanti lost reelection in that November’s city election. A few weeks later, the criminal case was disposed of short of trial when Faticanti assented to being placed on pretrial probation for a year after which the case would be dismissed.
In neither the Kouloheras nor Faticanti case did the School Committee take any action against their colleague.
In August 1994 during a heated debate over whether to build the Tsongas Arena, Councilor Tarsy Poulios attempted to assault Mayor Richard Howe. He was restrained from doing so but disrupted the meeting. No criminal charges were sought in that case, however, the Council put a motion to censure Poulios on the next meeting agenda, however, at the start of that meeting, Poulios apologized for his behavior and the motion to censure was dropped.
In March 2013, at that year’s St. Patrick’s Day breakfast, Mayor Patrick Murphy’s attempt at comedy went awry when he displayed a photo of himself seated at the Old Court Irish Pub alongside the white plaster bust of the Athenian statesman Pericles that normally resided in the Mayor’s Reception Room at City Hall. The bust had been a gift to the city from the Greek community which was outraged by Murphy’s use of the statue as a prop. In response, Councilor Rita Mercier filed a motion of no confidence against Mayor Murphy. During the debate on that motion at the April 2, 2013, Council meeting, Councilors instead endorsed a substitute motion asking Murphy to meet with and apologize to representatives of the Greek community which he later did.
Other than the aborted 1994 effort to censure Poulios and Councilor Mercier’s 2013 no confidence motion against Mayor Murphy, I don’t recall any instances of Councilors taking formal action against a colleague.
I also don’t believe that state law empowers Councilors to remove a fellow Councilor from office nor is there any provision for a recall election of a sitting Councilor by the voters.
While we’re on this deep dive into Lowell political history, a couple of individuals involved in this situation have links to well-known figures from Lowell’s past.
Councilor Robinson’s attorney, Ryan Sullivan, is the son of the late Paul Sullivan, who died in 2007. Paul was a well-known writer for the Lowell Sun and a radio host on WLLH and then WBZ.
As noted in the Dracut Police Report, the police were called by the attorney for the victim in this case who happened to be on the phone when Councilor Robinson arrived at the victim’s residence. That attorney was Stephen Barton who is the son of the late Judge Robert Barton who died in 2022. Judge Barton was well-known in Lowell for the many prominent criminal trials he presided over at Lowell Superior Court.