The Suffolk County district attorney is responsible for prosecuting crimes that occur within the area that includes Boston, Revere, Chelsea, and Winthrop. The district attorney has the power to decide whether to prosecute an offender, as well as whether to conduct a grand jury investigation.
With the possibility of holding such consequential power, Champion considers the injustices she has endured in her life and vows to administer justice equitably and fairly as top prosecutor. Her campaign priorities include decreasing recidivism, directing youthful nonviolent offenders to diversion programs, and protecting victims of violence.
Champion previously served as an assistant district attorney in Conley’s office from 2011 to 2013, and she is currently on an unpaid leave of absence from the Massachusetts Department of Industrial Accidents, where she serves as an assistant general counsel litigating industrial accident claims.
What is a challenge you have faced as an attorney, and how did you overcome it?
In 2007, as my career was growing and thriving, I became a victim of mortgage fraud that consumed more than two years of my life. Like many home buyers across the country in the early 2000s, I was scammed by a huge national lender and had to fight it. After finalizing that case, I vowed that I would help people suffering from financial crimes, and in 2011, District Attorney Dan Conley appointed me to be a prosecutor in his office.
In my time working under DA Conley, I had the opportunity to work with many victims of financial crimes, including elderly victims and others from vulnerable populations. The experience taught me that I had to fight against injustice and inspired me to focus on combating the type of corporate malfeasance that I endured.
What do you think about the current state of Americans’ civil rights?
We have a president who brags about sexually assaulting women and targets people based on their religion. We have a prison system that denies Muslims prayer mats and prisoners clean water. It matters how we treat people.
I am a black woman in America. I was pregnant at 28 and working for a law firm. I vividly recall walking into a meeting and everyone at the conference table in my group chuckling and laughing. Then, boldly, one of the attorneys said, “Do all black people have babies without being married?”
My entire life I have had to endure institutional racism. As a woman, I have had to endure unwanted sexual advances. Our civil rights have always been in danger, but people didn’t pay attention until the current president took office. We need to be vigilant in protecting the rights of all, and justice must be applied evenly and fairly. These issues must be addressed at the local, state, and national level.
Do you think it’s a district attorney’s responsibility to address societal motivators of crime, such as poverty? How would you address it?
Yes. We cannot ignore that a large portion of crime is connected to poverty. If people cannot find gainful employment, they will resort to crime to keep food on the table and money in their pocket. The only way to address this is to work within the community to participate in wraparound services. I need to mandate that all Suffolk County assistant district attorneys and staff give a minimum of eight hours each week to serve in the community to speak at schools, host tutoring sessions, and be community mentors. I need to be open to dismissing petty offenses in lieu of arraignment to ensure we are not subjecting those nonviolent offenders who are already struggling with poverty to incur unnecessary legal and coaurt fees. To truly prevent crime, we have to pledge to improve education, employment, and housing.
What are some specific issues you think Suffolk County should focus on that directly impact women within the criminal justice system?
As the daughter of an immigrant woman and single mother, a key issue to me is the lack of access to services and assistance for immigrants who are suffering from abuse. For women trapped in an abusive relationship, I am well aware of the complex issues. The biggest challenge for the victim is fear. We have to be open to a new approach. I would like to retain mental health professionals to serve as trainers and victim witness advocates.
My mother and older sister suffered violent attacks against them. My mother, after getting the courage to leave, lived in fear that my father would one day find her, and that fear never left until the day my father passed away. We live in a society that places blame on the victim.
A lot of people say 2018 is the new Year of the Woman. What do you think?
We are tired of business as usual. We are ready for change, and we are willing to step up and challenge people who do not represent us and our views. I am proud of the many strong female leaders we have in this city, the state of Massachusetts, and our country. As a biracial woman living in America, I’m well aware of the challenges women face. We need more vocal female leaders who understand these challenges and issues to stand up and lead the fight for justice and equality.