Sex, Lies, and Surveillance Tape: Inside Rockland’s #MeToo Scandal
At the height of the #MeToo movement, Rockland’s sole female town selectperson accused the town administrator of sexually assaulting her. One and a half years later, it’s still not clear who was the real victim.
Deirdre Hall woke up on May 2, 2018, in the fog of a wine-fueled hangover. Hoisting herself out of bed to help her three children get ready for the day, she searched her memory for scenes from the previous evening. There was the stripped-down interior of the Rockland Bar & Grill, a glass of wine—maybe several more—plus boozy conversation at the dimly lit watering hole with Allan Chiocca, Rockland’s town administrator. And then what? Most of the night was a blank.
As she made her way to work, disturbing fragments jumped out from the darkness of her mind like struck matches, each one a shot of burning phosphorous to the nostril: sitting in the front seat of Chiocca’s truck, idling in the parking lot; driving around town at midnight for God knows how long; tipsy negotiations in the shadows outside town hall; then Chiocca at the keypad, unlocking the door to the government building. There was also Chiocca’s demand for oral sex; whether she delivered, she couldn’t remember.
Years earlier, as an undergraduate studying abroad, Hall had been the victim of a sexual assault. She’d come forward and testified against her attacker at the trial. The trauma of that experience had stayed with her. Maybe she had blocked memories of the night before because they were the kinds of things that were too disturbing to face in the light of day.
Ambitious and bright, Hall was the only woman on the Rockland Board of Selectmen and easily its most qualified member—for seven years, she’d worked as an attorney for the city of Quincy. That night, she had chaired the meeting for the very first time. Hall considered her elected position the first step in what she hoped would be a long and effective political career. She’d already begun raising money to finance a run for the 5th Plymouth District state representative seat and planned to spend the summer knocking on doors and shaking hands. But right now, she couldn’t even think about that.
In the months leading up to that night, a series of high-profile women had landed on the front pages of newspapers, speaking boldly about the sexual predators they’d been forced to work with, from Harvey Weinstein to Matt Lauer and Louis CK. Yet for every one of those women, there were still countless others toiling away in far less glamorous places who had been sexually harassed and assaulted by their male colleagues. Had Hall become one of them the night before? Was she Massachusetts’ newest face of the #MeToo movement?
Ultimately, Hall decided to remain quiet. After all, this wasn’t Hollywood. Her accusations weren’t going to land in the New York Times. This was small-town New England, where, even in the 21st century, an allegation like hers could backfire. She would be the one judged and attacked while her family was torn apart. After all, she’d gotten drunk that night. She was a mother and wife, alone at a bar with a married man on a school night. The optics were bad. Hester Prynne bad. It was best not to even bring it up.
You could be forgiven for not finding Rockland on a map. An unremarkable 10 square miles created when a few disgruntled townsfolk seceded from Abington in 1874, it’s considered by some a suburb of Brockton. Its winding roads are bordered by modest Victorians and postwar ranches on tight lots with above-ground pools out back. The median annual household income hovers around $77,000.
Hall and her husband, Chris, own a small townhouse in a 1980s development bordering conservation land. Gray with white trim, it faces box hedges sheared into giant dinner rolls and footstools. At some point, someone thought to add a willow tree to the mix, ringing it with a well-tended bed of wood chips.
Hall earned a bachelor’s degree from UMass Boston and a JD from New England School of Law, completing her coursework while raising her three young children. Not only was she an attorney for Quincy, but she also served for a time as the city’s compliance manager. Her husband was a public school teacher.
In the spring of 2017, Hall joined the wave of women running for public office with a campaign for a position on the Rockland Board of Selectmen. Thanks to her legal training and background in local government, she made for a standout candidate. During the televised debates leading up to the election, she easily outshone her opponents, including a conspiracy-addled elder whose sole issue was a demand for forensic audits of the town’s finances, and a mild-mannered dad whose only civic experience was coaching a girls’ soccer team. Hall’s answers to the moderator’s questions were so clear, informed, and thoughtful that the other hopefuls began to parrot her. She was a rising star.
Hall won the seat and, within a year, was elected vice chair of the board. In the spring of 2018, she filed paperwork for a bid at the state-rep seat. Her campaign’s slogan: Hall for All.
On the morning of May 2, however, she awoke a wreck, tormented not so much by her memories of the night before as the gaping gaps between them. Once everyone was out of the house, Hall emailed Chiocca—could they see each other for 15 minutes before his 9 a.m. meeting?
Three minutes later, her phone buzzed. Chiocca said yes.
When Hall caught up with him at town hall, though, Chiocca’s behavior set off alarm bells. Cagey and defensive, he cryptically thanked her for his “birthday present.” Present? She hadn’t given him anything. Or had she? She didn’t ask for details, only for discretion.
Over the next two weeks, Hall was dogged by the shame and anxiety of a possible encounter she could barely remember. She began to obsess over Chiocca’s potential to do her harm. In Rockland, rumors of an adulterous affair could spread like lice at a preschool, ruining her reputation, her family, and her shot at the state-rep seat. With each passing day, Hall’s paranoia grew. She began to suspect that Chiocca was working behind her back to set a nefarious plan in motion.
Her fears weren’t unfounded. Chiocca and Hall had never gotten along. He thought she asked too many questions and considered her a nosy pain in the ass. In the month leading up to that night, she’d recommended that the board provide him with more guidance and oversight. Now she worried that he would use their boozy rendezvous to try to oust her. On May 16, she overheard Chiocca inviting another board member to get a bite to eat, ostensibly to discuss Hall’s recent appointment as school board liaison.
That was when Hall decided to talk. If he tried to sully her reputation as a dedicated wife, mother, and public servant, she wanted her colleagues to hear the truth from her first: He had assaulted her. Hall’s first call was to the chairman of the board, Edward Kimball.
Kimball was a bulky contractor with short gray hair and a goatee who favored the modern man’s muumuu—XXL button-down shirts untucked, sans tie. In his mid-fifties, he’d sat on the board for almost a decade. During their biweekly meetings, Hall served as his trusty number two. He had encouraged her political ascent and was helping with her state-rep campaign. She knew he would take her allegation seriously. She knew he would defend her.
Hall sketched out what she could remember of that night—Rockland Town Hall, wine at the Rockland Bar & Grill—and then she repeated to him what she’d confided in her husband when she’d arrived home that fateful night: that Chiocca had gotten her drunk, manipulated her into entering his office, and demanded oral sex. Hall also shared a less detailed version of her story with Selectman Michael Mullen Jr. She didn’t bring up Chiocca’s requests for sexual favors, but she did tell Mullen that Chiocca was “evil.” Mullen seemed concerned, but took no action.
Kimball, however, was outraged. To corroborate Hall’s story, he immediately tracked down the town’s IT director, Eric Hart, and ordered him to pull up the surveillance tapes of town hall from the evening of May 1. He wanted to see what had happened with his own eyes.
The video from the five town-hall cameras was silent and low-res. The 1970s office setting and bad lighting looked like the start of a million amateur YouTube videos, the kind engineered to make you think you’ve stumbled onto something you weren’t supposed to see.
Together, Kimball and Hart watched the footage. At the 10:45 p.m. mark, a pickup truck pulled into the lower parking lot. Chiocca and Hall stepped out and walked up the outdoor stairs to the front plaza, into town hall, and straight to their respective bathrooms. Chiocca emerged first and stood for a moment in the foyer. Calm and steady, he picked at his teeth with something. Then he pulled out a ring of keys and unlocked his office door. As he did, Hall exited the women’s room and made her way awkwardly down the hallway toward him.
Caught by the surveillance camera posted right above Chiocca’s head, Hall’s walk was unsexy and unsteady, feet fixed at 45 degrees in gray suede pumps. She wore black-framed glasses with thick lenses. As she swayed, looking off to her right, she absent-mindedly tugged at the bottom hem of her bright red blouse. Midway down the hall, she wobbled and heeled a bit to port, then righted herself.
Just below the camera, in full frame, Hall stopped for a moment, dropping her head into her hands, her shiny blond bob cascading forward. Then she rubbed her eyes as if wiping away sleep, tucked her locks behind her ears, and smiled at Chiocca, who was just beyond camera.
The town administrator’s bald head leaned briefly into the frame. In a girlish gesture, Hall pulled her hair back into a ponytail and held it there, petting it awhile. Eyes closed, listening and nodding, she grinned coyly, rocking lightly. Then she covered her face with her neatly manicured hands, a wedding ring and diamond shining on her ring finger. When she opened her eyes, refreshed, she said something that, to a lip reader, looked a lot like “We should go home.”
The pair exited town hall. But they only got to the top of the parking-lot stairs. There, they spoke for seven minutes, Chiocca leaning calmly against the railing, Hall standing a few feet opposite him. He then made a beeline into the building. She followed him far behind. The cameras caught them every step of the way, straight into his office. He shut the door. A minute later, he came out to retrieve something from his truck and a handbag she’d forgotten in the women’s room. Then he disappeared behind the closed door of his office.
At 2:09 a.m., Chiocca exited the room in a businesslike manner, moving swiftly and purposefully, his tie open and dangling loosely around his neck, reading glasses halfway down his nose. He walked directly to the men’s room, where he could be seen at the sink before the door swung shut. After he returned to the office, Hall wandered out of the room, a little wobbly, a little dazed, with a plastic water bottle in her hand. She made her way outside town hall and waited, swaying in the shadows, while Chiocca locked up. When he was done, he shuffled quickly past her and straight to his truck, never looking back, never acknowledging her. She followed him down the steps to the lower lot. As soon as she climbed into his vehicle, they drove off.
After viewing the surveillance tape, Kimball noticed that between 10:45 p.m. and 2:09 a.m., a space of more than three long hours, only about 15 minutes’ worth of footage existed. What had happened to the rest? Kimball immediately suspected that Chiocca had gotten to the surveillance video first and doctored it, using his position as town administrator to cover his tracks. No doubt, Kimball thought, he’d somehow roped in Hart, too.
Next, Kimball called Hall’s husband to find out what she’d told him. Yes, Chris Hall said, when his wife arrived home early in the morning on May 2, she said that Chiocca had demanded a raise and oral sex.
Chiocca was next on Kimball’s list. The following day, he and Rockland’s town counsel, John Clifford, met with Chiocca, who admitted he’d had a sexual encounter with Hall. But he claimed that she’d come on to him. On May 29, Chiocca was placed on paid administrative leave for, according to the town, “engaging in inappropriate behavior toward a member of the Board of Selectmen.” He would never return to Rockland Town Hall again.
Hall didn’t take her story to human resources or the police. But in response to her version of the events, quasi-corroborated by possibly tampered-with video, Clifford recommended that the board of selectmen approve a $40,000 contract with a private investigation firm, Discrimination and Harassment Solutions (DHS), to look into what had happened on the night in question. Kimball recused himself from the vote and Hall agreed to step down from the board to allow investigators to do their work. The remaining three board members unanimously approved DHS’s contract.
On May 23, Boston 25 News sniffed out that something was amiss in Rockland and reported that two town officials were being investigated for alleged misconduct that was sexual in nature. The rumors of an affair that followed among townspeople were as tangled as a clump of hair in a locker-room shower drain. With her name and face getting dragged into a salacious scandal, Hall felt the need to set the record straight. This had not been a midnight tryst, she wanted the people of Rockland to know; it was a non-consensual assault. Taking to Facebook, she announced on May 30 that at her request, the Rockland Board of Selectmen had initiated an internal investigation of “inappropriate behavior by the town administrator towards me.”
Suddenly, the people of Rockland were exceedingly interested in the comings and goings of their board members. At the opening of an unusually populous town meeting on June 5, Hall stood to recite the pledge of allegiance with the three other selectmen present. She wore a white dress with lacy sleeves, a string of pearls around her neck, her hair in a ponytail—the picture of professionalism. As Kimball opened the proceedings, Hall gave him a grateful look and turned to nod at Mullen.
Kimball pleaded for residents to quell the rumor mill and allow the investigation to continue its course. While he spoke, Hall scanned the room, eyebrows raised, mouth drawn down, seemingly in appeal for support among the many attendees.
Near the one-hour mark, Kimball invited other selectmen’s comments. Hall inhaled and read from her own prepared statement: “I know it’s been a trying time and I appreciate everyone maintaining good decorum,” she began. “I recently reported an incident of inappropriate behavior by the town administrator, and since the weeks that those allegations have emerged it has been very challenging for me and my family.”
Her voice cracked. “False rumors and gossip have spread, particularly on social media, about me, about the devotion to my spouse, my husband, Chris, and our children and our town. Indeed, I no longer feel that my children, my son, is comfortable taking the bus, and I feel that my kids oftentimes are not safe or comfortable participating in some community activities. And this is a deeply disappointing consequence of my decision to stand up for myself in a situation where I believe that I was treated improperly.”
Hall thanked her husband, children, family, and neighbors for their support. Then she told the townspeople she was taking a leave from the board while the investigation played out, professing complete confidence in the process under way.
By the time private investigator Regina Ryan arrived in Rockland, there were plenty of questions and even more residents hungry for answers. As president of Discrimination and Harassment Solutions, Ryan wrote up a list of 13 people of interest to interview, including Hall and Chiocca, Hall’s husband, board members, and the administrative staff of town hall. Ryan also hired Steven Verronneau, a local multimedia forensic specialist, to evaluate the surveillance tapes.
Investigating workplace claims like these was Ryan’s side hustle. A Suffolk Law–educated attorney who graduated from Providence College in 1989, she had several decades’ worth of experience in workplace discrimination as an attorney at Boston’s Louison, Costello, Condon & Pfaff. She’d completed courses at the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination and was certified to conduct investigations into allegations of sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace. In 2014, she founded her own firm to conduct confidential investigations.
Still, Kimball immediately suspected foul play. Chiocca had powerful friends, especially Clifford, the town counsel, who was also his golfing buddy. If Chiocca and others were capable of tampering with surveillance tapes, Kimball reasoned, they could certainly sway the investigation in his favor. Ryan’s line of questioning only stoked Kimball’s suspicion—she appeared unduly focused on establishing Hall’s character. As with so many assault allegations, the accuser—the woman—found herself scrutinized from a purity standard. Was she an adulterer? Was she lascivious? Was she a bad mother? In other words, Was she asking for it?
Alarmed by Ryan’s inquiry, Kimball made a motion at the June 19 board meeting to turn over any evidence to the Rockland Police Department so detectives could look into potential criminal activity, including evidence tampering and sexual assault. His reasoning: If Ryan concluded that Chiocca was innocent, the evidence would at least get an expert second look. At first, Clifford tried to block the motion, noting that because it was not on the agenda, it was not eligible for a vote. Kimball silenced him. “I have no confidence in town counsel at this moment,” he snapped. “I can discuss what I like, Mr. Clifford. Please hold your words.”
Everyone in the room froze. Then Kimball turned to the other three board members, who throughout the conflict had kept their heads down: “Does this board want to look into the allegations or does this board want to be part of a cover-up?”
“How would we be involved with a cover-up?” Selectman Larry Ryan demanded, visibly irritated by the whole affair.
“How would we not be involved if we didn’t want the police department to take over?” Kimball shot back.
Kimball dug in, painting himself as Rockland’s only defender of truth: It was Clifford, Chiocca’s friend, who had initiated the private investigation, he said. And wasn’t it strange that Kimball was the only board member whom the investigator had interviewed so far? For that reason alone, Kimball said, pounding his fist on the table for emphasis, “I have no confidence in Mr. Clifford with regards to this particular matter.”
Sitting next to Kimball, Larry Ryan grew red-faced, then lost his temper. “We voted to authorize the investigation unanimously, so don’t start with that shit,” he said, shocking a room more accustomed to respectful and dry town meetings. “We’re going to do what’s good for Rockland tonight. And that’s removing you as the chairman of the board of selectmen.”
Kimball folded his arms over his chest and sat back in his chair. “It’s a sham investigation,” he told the room. A few minutes later, Ryan packed up his papers and left in disgust. “Have a good night,” Kimball called after him sarcastically.
A week later, in late June, two police officers showed up at Eric Hart’s house to inform him that the town was suspending him with pay. The reason was unclear, but Hart thought his suspension came straight from Kimball, who seemed convinced that Hart had meddled with the surveillance video and, further, had bugged offices at town hall.
The truth would come out. Kimball would make sure of that.
On July 10, dozens of townspeople filed into Rockland High School’s auditorium, where the board members, expecting a crowd, had relocated their usual meeting to release the findings of Regina Ryan’s investigation. Throughout the previous month, Rockland had simmered with intrigue. The Chiocca-Hall affair had become small-town Massachusetts’ #MeToo inkblot test. Some saw Hall as the obvious victim, targeted because of her success and gender, bravely speaking out to protect the women around her. Others saw Hall as an opportunist—she’d had a regrettable midnight encounter and now she was invoking the language of #MeToo to save face, rescue her marriage, vanquish her enemies, and bolster her bid for state rep.
Under the bright lights of the high school stage, Rockland’s town representatives sat at tables draped in pleated navy-blue bunting facing the residents who had shown up for this moment of truth. Kimball wore a suit for the occasion. Rockland town attorney John Clifford sat at a side table next to Regina Ryan. Hall did not attend. Police Chief John Llewellyn stood in as town administrator for Chiocca, who was also absent.
Briefed before taking the stage, the three remaining board members (and the parties involved) already knew the details of Ryan’s investigative report. Kimball opened the meeting by complaining that the board had turned allegations of sexual assault into a spectacle. He then predicted that his fellow board members would likely remove him as chairman, which, moments later, they did. After all, thanks to Regina Ryan’s sleuthing, they now knew that Kimball was not just Hall’s fiercest supporter throughout this difficult time. He was far more: The married town leader was also her lover. In fact, on the night in question, Hall had presided over the board meeting because Kimball’s wife had just discovered the affair.
Later that night, when Hall and Chiocca were sitting at the bar drinking, Hall’s phone lit up with furious texts from Kimball’s wife, Dawn: “Did you really think I wouldn’t find out? You’re a disgusting human being. The both of you are disgusting. I’m not about threatening anyone just so you know. But I haven’t decided how I am going to handle this. 35 years of marriage now means nothing, and I have you to thank for that.”
Then Hall’s phone rang—it was Kimball calling to assure her that his wife would not publicize the affair. But Hall was still distraught. A few drinks in, she confessed everything to Chiocca, telling him that she was terrified word would get out and ruin her run for state rep.
Sitting with Hall in the bar, Chiocca found himself in the improbable position of being her confidant. After all, he and Hall had always had a tense relationship. As Regina Ryan’s report revealed, they openly argued in his office and in front of staff and disparaged each other to other town employees. Throughout the year leading up to that night, Chiocca told Ryan, he avoided being alone with Hall—as a board member, she was one of his five supervisors—and whenever she came to town hall, witnesses saw him hustling out of his office to avoid confrontation. He instructed administrators to warn him when she entered the building.
Now Hall was sharing her extramarital, intra-town-council sexual escapades with him. At 67, Chiocca was nearing retirement. He’d been married for nearly four decades, during which time he’d been a businessman, served as a state representative, and, for the past decade, been Rockland’s town administrator. His three-year contract was coming up, and he had already made it clear to the board that he wanted to stay on and was gunning for a $30,000 raise.
But here he was in a bar with a board member who was confessing that although she loved her husband, monogamy wasn’t her thing. Hall ordered another glass of wine, and soon her hand migrated under the table to Chiocca’s leg as she talked about her desire to step outside her marriage, which she found too restrictive. One man wasn’t enough for her. She needed more in her life. “I just want some cock,” he says she told him. Chiocca gently rebuffed Hall, alluding to a medical condition. “Even if I wanted to,” he told her, “I’m not your guy.”
Eventually, Chiocca tried to leave the bar, but Hall implored him to stay. Because she was his supervisor, Chiocca said, he felt compelled to obey. She continued pressing him for an encounter.
Around 10 p.m., Chiocca paid their bill for three beers and four glasses of wine, and agreed to drive Hall around town in his truck because she didn’t want to go home just yet. They drove for a half-hour before parking at the nearby Banner Pub, where Hall pressed him further. Chiocca says in the report that she repeatedly told him she “just wanted some cock,” reminding him that she was his boss and his contract extension was coming up for a vote. “You’re acting like a predator,” he claimed to have warned Hall. “I’m not your guy.”
Next, Hall told Chiocca that she had to go to the bathroom but didn’t want to use the one in the Banner Pub, so he offered to take her back to town hall. At 10:45 p.m., they arrived in his truck, parked in the lower lot, and walked up the outdoor staircase across the plaza to the front entrance. This is where the surveillance tape picked up the action. They each used the town-hall bathrooms and headed out again. But at the top of the stairs to the parking lot, Hall blocked Chiocca from getting to his truck and leaving. She demanded that he let her perform oral sex on him and again reminded him that she controlled a vote on his contract and raise.
Finally, Chiocca relented. The pair walked back into town hall and straight to Chiocca’s office. The security tape captures nothing for the next two hours. But Chiocca’s account offers graphic details.
In his office, Hall asked Chiocca to open a bottle of wine—an early birthday present given to him by the town’s project coordinator. As he opened it, Hall pulled up a chair. She spread her legs, grabbed his hand, and placed it on her panties. A cup of wine spilled. “Please don’t do this,” Chiocca pleaded. “I can’t even if I wanted to.”
According to Chiocca, Hall insisted that he rub her genitals, then removed her underwear and told Chiocca to stand up so she could “make it hard.” She pulled down the town administrator’s pants and performed oral sex on him. Upon completion, she asked him to return the favor. He tried for a few seconds but stopped. He didn’t want to. She requested manual stimulation and he complied, but “after attempting to satisfy Mrs. Hall with his hands, Mr. Chiocca stopped and pleaded, ‘It’s 2:00 a.m., please let me go home,’” Regina Ryan’s report stated. A few minutes later, Chiocca drove Hall back to her car parked outside Rockland Bar & Grill.
This was the X-rated version that the town board members read, but the townspeople, packed into the auditorium that night, heard only the G-rated conclusion, which Regina Ryan read to them in a short statement. Her investigation did not find that the surveillance video had been tampered with. Furthermore, it did not substantiate Hall’s allegation against Chiocca. In fact, she told the crowd, it found that Hall had been the aggressor. “Mrs. Hall used her position as a member of the board of selectmen, who was actively reviewing and would soon be voting on his request for contract extension and salary increase, to pressure him into engaging in sexual activities with her,” Ryan said. In other words, this was a #MeToo incident after all, but the alleged victim was actually the perpetrator.
When Ryan finished reading her conclusions, Clifford immediately announced that Hall was resigning from the board of selectmen. The audience heartily applauded. Hall soon gave up her candidacy for state rep, as well. Her political career was over. Later that month, residents recalled Kimball, ending his decade-long run on the board. Some folks in the audience that night shouted that they wanted Chiocca fired, too. Eventually he was dismissed, but Rockland hadn’t heard the last of him.
In early 2019, Chiocca filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court against the town of Rockland, naming Hall, Kimball, and the other board members as defendants, over its handling of the scandal, which he says destroyed his career and irreparably damaged his reputation. The 37 claims in the lawsuit include sexual harassment, wrongful termination, libel, slander, and unlawful suspension. Though no amount of damages was specified, Chiocca’s attorney says he’d abandon the lawsuit if the town settled for a $5.37 million payout to cover back pay and benefits, lost vacation time, emotional distress, and damage to Chiocca’s reputation. A trial is set for September 2020. In response to Chiocca’s lawsuit, the town commissioned a second investigation into what happened, but has not released the findings, citing the pending litigation.
The summer following Ryan’s investigation, Hall had all but disappeared. Her husband filed papers in August to run for her former town seat but pulled them after being labeled a cuckold on social media and in the press. Hall now stays home to care for her children, ages 10, 12, and 14, and takes the occasional job doing legal work when she can. She’s also fighting Chiocca’s allegations. In August she filed her own lawsuit, seeking damages for sexual harassment, assault and battery, invasion of privacy, defamation, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. During a brief conversation at her home, she told me she had to cash out her pension to pay for the $750-an-hour attorney who is handling her case.
In her lawsuit, Hall details Chiocca’s motivation for destroying her. Prior to the night in question, she claims, certain board members weren’t happy with Chiocca’s job performance. That April, she’d requested a review of his work. In doing so, she alleges, she challenged his “unfettered authority.” She states that when she arrived at the Rockland Bar & Grill on May 1, Chiocca already had a glass of wine waiting for her. Throughout the night, they drank side by side. By the time they got to town hall, she was so intoxicated that she fell in the women’s room. Once he got her in his office, the lawsuit states, he “grabbed Mrs. Hall’s head and forcibly put her face in his crotch, inserting his penis in her mouth. She stopped resisting him at this point.” Once Chiocca was finished, Hall claims that he ordered her to “pull her shit together” and hustled her out of the building. After one and a half years, her memories were finally clear.
Now, as winter rolls into New England once again, a cold wind sweeps up Union Street in Rockland, scattering dead leaves into the shriveled mums at town-hall plaza. When I asked a town-hall worker, who did not wish to be identified, who she sides with in the dispute, she shrugged. She never liked Chiocca, she told me—he ran the place like a dictator. But she blames them both: “Big egos, small pond.”
Selectman Mullen tells me he’s eager to put the whole affair behind him and return to the business of improving Rockland. A silver lining, he noted over the phone, is that town committee participation has doubled in the past year. Meanwhile, Kimball filed a counterclaim to Chiocca’s lawsuit and stands by his actions: “I knew full well that my aiding Ms. Hall in her accusation exposed me to investigation for whatever happens,” he told MassLive in November 2018. “I believe that, and I still do, that something inappropriate did happen.”
The question of what actually happened, though, still remains. Did Hall accuse Chiocca of sexual assault to cover her own offense? Are we conditioned to believe the woman’s account, even when she’s the aggressor? Or perhaps this is yet another sad case of victim-blaming in which a woman is not only assaulted, but then held responsible for that crime, and ultimately, in the most bizarre turn of American justice, found to be the villain.
There’s one more possibility. I’ve watched and rewatched the surveillance tapes of that night. I’ve viewed them thinking of Hall as the victim and as the aggressor. I’ve flipped open my laptop and played back the silent, low-res video for friends, hoping for the blessed clarity that comes with a fresh pair of eyes. And now I see a more disturbing truth flickering out from between the frames. When I press “play,” I see an unhappy man and woman careening down a horrifying road with eyes wide open. Maybe that night they sought companionship. Maybe they also reveled in the other’s destruction. Maybe they were intoxicated by the potent mix of power, humiliation, and seduction. Whatever the case, they both willingly walked into that office at midnight. And after they shut that door behind them, only Hall and Chiocca know what happened in those restless hours in Rockland between dusk and dawn.