Varsity Blues DOJ Prosecutor to Resign Amid Ethics Investigation
The U.S. Attorney in charge of prosecuting the Operation Varsity Blues scandal is now in a scandal of her own, with an all-expense paid trip to CAA’s Amplify Summit in Los Angeles and free tickets to Boston Celtics games among a lengthy list of alleged ethical violations.
On Wednesday, the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General released a 161-page ethics report accusing Rachael Rollins of making false statements under oath and lacking candor in discussions with investigators. Rollins, a former Suffolk County (Mass.) district attorney whom President Biden nominated in 2021, is, according to her attorney, expected to submit her letter of resignation to the President by the end of the week.
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The report depicts Rollins as regularly engaging in political activities while serving in what is supposed to be a non-political office. For instance, she allegedly leaked to Boston Globe and Boston Herald journalists “non-public, sensitive” DOJ information regarding Kevin Hayden, a candidate for Suffolk County District Attorney and opponent of Rollins’ preferred candidate, Ricardo Arroyo. Following Rollins’ leaks, the Globe published negative stories about Hayden, who later won the election.
Rollins also attended a Democratic Party fundraiser at a home in Andover, Mass., last year that featured First Lady Jill Biden. The Hatch Act prohibits federal employees from certain types of political activities, including fundraising events.
In addition, Rollins traveled to participate in CAA’s invitation-only Amplify Summit last June. A “California-based sports and entertainment agency” paid for her to fly business class to Los Angeles and first class on the return flight to Boston. She was also provided two nights at a luxury hotel, car services to and from the airports and meals.
The report says a colleague in Rollins’ office was surprised to see her mentioned in a Hollywood Reporter story on Summit participants as she had not sought ethics clearance and had only said she was going to California for a family event. The colleague advised her to reimburse the L.A. agency, but “Rollins replied that she saw no reason to pay anything back given her prior relationship with the L.A. Agency.” After being questioned by investigators about the all-expense paid trip, Rollins wrote a check to the L.A. agency for $2,307.66. As to the “family event” in California, it “ended up not happening.”
Rollins is also questioned for her soliciting and accepting free tickets to Celtics games. The report concluded she violated the Executive Branch’s “Standards of Ethical Conduct” as a result.
In February 2022, she told a youth basketball camp: “I’m going to see if I can get the championship team [at the youth camp] tickets to a Celtics game. My significant other works for the Celtics. We will see what we can do.” She received 30 tickets to a game in April 2022.
A day before the game, Rollins emailed “the Celtics Senior VP” that she “would love to be able to see them and take a picture.” The Celtics executive replied, “Are you coming to the game? Do you need tix?” to which Rollins replied: “I would love a ticket for the game. Just to be able to walk up during halftime to go see the kids to say hello and take a few pictures.”
The Celtics provided Rollins with two tickets, each with a face value of $350.
During the game, Rollins emailed her office’s youth program specialist with a complaint. She wrote: “Hey, [i]n the future, this has to be far better organized . . . these youth are only here because I offered and set up this opportunity. The fact that we aren’t meeting to take a photo or have a conversation while they are enjoying this experience I provided for them is a significant lack of an opportunity.”
The specialist found the email ethically problematic and emailed a supervisor, writing that Rollins “does not seem to understand that this was her giving tickets in a personal capacity, not USAO or DOJ.”
Rollins leaves her position following a defeat in the Operation Varsity Blues litigation. Last week the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit vacated all the bribery, fraud and conspiracy convictions against two parents—Gamal Abdelaziz and John Wilson—who were accused of paying to boost the odds their children would be accepted into elite universities into athletic programs.