Richard Howe Substack – Nov 26, 2023

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.