Kyle R. Boynton '02 is a trial attorney for the Criminal Section of the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, who prosecutes police officers, corrections officers, and other government officials charged with depriving individuals of their civil rights. His Section also prosecutes federal hate crime statutes and statutes protecting houses of worship and abortion clinics. He is a former police officer and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Special Agent.
Boynton entered Hotchkiss as a prep day student in 1998. "My mom was the head of Town Hill School for a number of years, which was then located on Hotchkiss's campus. All of my cousins on my mom's side of the family went to Hotchkiss, all as day students. When it came time for secondary school, I thought I might go to Taft, just to do something different from the rest of the family. I recall that Taft rejected me, but it was for the best. I loved my time at Hotchkiss." There, he had the opportunity to serve as a Human Development teaching assistant during his senior year, where the topic of sexual abuse was addressed. This proved to be a significant experience that would influence the trajectory of his career.
Once graduated, Boynton matriculated at the University of Virginia (UVA), earning a B.A. in English Literature and Psychology. Owing to a combination of factors, including his work at Hotchkiss and the recommendation of his sister Ashleigh Boynton Rader '98, he joined One in Four, an all-male sexual assault education group. He explains, "My sister was also at UVA, and had friends in One in Four. She knew of my interest in the issue and connected me with them. I had read about acquaintance rape and campus issues before starting at UVA, but my involvement in One in Four broadened my perspective substantially. For one, the training for new members was very extensive. Presenting to all-male audiences, I also saw firsthand some of the more problematic subcultures at UVA. Many of the fraternities or sports teams we'd present to would be great. They'd be respectful and engaged during the presentation. There were other presentation environments that were pretty openly hostile. Lastly, one of the blessings and curses of being a part of a group like One in Four is that survivors of sexual assault are more likely to tell you about what happened to them. As a result, and sadly so, I learned that many of the women and some of the men I knew in college had survived sexual assault."
While in Charlottesville, Boynton helped out on a rape crisis hotline and served on a student board that worked to address sexual assault issues with the UVA administration. In 2006, he decided to pursue a career in law enforcement and joined the Charlottesville Police Department. "Patrol was one of the best jobs I've had, with many highs and lows. For all crimes, police are right there in the immediate aftermath. As a patrol officer, I was the first responder to a lot of violent incidents. It can really drain your empathy to be exposed to that every day. The rape cases were hard, but today, as a father, the child abuse cases haunt me the most. Cops have an enormously difficult job and see the absolute worst of our society. I think that helps explain high correlations in the profession with alcohol abuse, divorce, and other anti-social personality traits."
With a good grasp of the enormity of the problem of sexual abuse, Boynton wrote an internal paper advocating for the region's first Sexual Assault Response Team, a coordinated group of doctors, nurses, advocates, officers, detectives, and prosecutors, built around the idea that a strong working relationship among those stakeholders would reduce survivor attrition and yield more successful investigations and prosecutions. That program was approved shortly before he left for the FBI in 2010.
As an FBI Special Agent, Boynton was assigned to an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) in McAllen, Texas along the Mexican border. He collaborated with an array of federal and local law enforcement partners to leverage human and signals intelligence in order to disrupt and dismantle Mexican cartels. In the fall of 2013, Boynton took a temporary duty assignment to the protection detail for Attorney General Eric Holder. "The detail gave me a window into the daily duties of Justice Department attorneys. While I considered my work as an FBI Special Agent to be a dream come true, and I enjoyed every minute of it professionally, personally it was challenging. I spent my time in the FBI 1,600 miles away from my wife. We saw each other roughly once a month for those four years." In 2014, he decided to change course and go to law school. "After the detail, I thought being a prosecutor might be the second-best job in the world. I'd take that for a more stable family life."
During Boynton's time earning a J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center (cum laude, American Criminal Law Review Executive Editor, Public Interest Fellow, Pro Bono, Highest Honors), he was able to see other angles of government service. "I served as a Judiciary Committee Fellow for Senator Richard Blumenthal, and as a legal intern at the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Virginia, the Criminal Division at the Department of Justice, and at the Drug Enforcement Administration Headquarters in their newly-formed Office of Compliance. I also had a wonderful opportunity after school to clerk for U.S. District Judge Liam O'Grady in the Eastern District of Virginia's 'rocket docket.' I learned a great deal working for Judge O'Grady. He's humble, thoughtful, compassionate, and decisive. These qualities, among many others, make him an exceptional trial judge, mentor, and role model."
Boynton considers himself fortunate to have had the opportunity to return to the Justice Department after his clerkship. "When I first returned to the Department, I was detailed from the Civil Rights Division to the Sex Offense Domestic Violence Section of the U.S. Attorney's Office in the District of Columbia. There, I prosecuted and managed a high-volume docket of sex abuse, domestic abuse, and child abuse cases for six months. The Civil Rights Division has been a great fit for me, allowing me to draw on many of my past professional experiences. I get to work primarily with FBI agents on compelling cases going to the heart of public trust in our government officials. As a former police officer, I know firsthand the enormous challenges of policing, but I also know just how damaging excessive force and other abuses can be to community relationships and to the great officers out there who put on the uniform every day to do good for a living."
In his current work, a typical week might involve a few days on the road, travelling to the various states where he has active cases. "I may be joining FBI agents for interviews, questioning witnesses in front of a grand jury, or appearing in court for a motions hearing. Because we work with a lot of partners, including the FBI, Assistant United States Attorneys in the field, and state and local agents and officers, I spend a lot of time on email and conference calls."
At the end of the day, Boynton feels satisfaction when justice is done. "I was recently talking with an acquaintance who is a state prosecutor, and he was discussing conviction stats. To me, there are certain limited reasons why those stats should matter to an office, but not to the individual prosecutor. Personally, I don't celebrate convictions in court or after. Every time the government tries a criminal case, it wins. Whether the trial results in an acquittal or a conviction, the government has won because that verdict reflects the just outcome based on the evidence, the law, and the reasoned judgment of the fact finder. I get to go to work every day and just do good. That's my most fundamental duty. I had a case at the U.S. Attorney's Office that would have required only a dozen or so hours of preparation to try. I spent nearly 50 hours developing evidence that the defendant was innocent, because something was just not adding up for me about the case. I ultimately got sign-off to dismiss the case for actual innocence. That was the right outcome."
In hindsight, Boynton is grateful for many of the lessons he learned at Hotchkiss. "One of the most formative was going before the Disciplinary Committee. I was 15, with maturity to match, and had made a serious mistake in a personal matter with a faculty member, who rightly held me accountable. The son of a school principal, I had never been in trouble before. It was a difficult time for me, but I learned important and lasting lessons in judgment and humility. Everyone makes mistakes. We distinguish ourselves in how we address them, take ownership of them, and grow from them. Hotchkiss also taught me to think and act deliberately. Baked into being deliberate is a scientific method. It's not just about doing something intentionally; it's about doing something with reasoned, thoughtful consciousness. That way of critical thinking, synthesizing facts into frameworks, is vital to being a successful investigator."
Having served Hotchkiss as a class agent since 2006, Boynton notes, "I had a great experience at Hotchkiss, so I appreciate the opportunity to give back, to help raise money to open those experiences to other kids, and to have an excuse to stay connected with people." For students considering a career in government service, he offers the following advice: "Be passionate about that path, but not too calculating. I think sometimes people focus on an end result, a job title or responsibility they want to hold, and view each step to get there as a frustrating delay. But those steps are the places we grow and mature and prepare for the jobs ahead of us. Your first job may not be the job you retire from, but it may still be an invaluable experience that prepares you to do that dream job better. While in school, use your summers to explore angles of that profession you're interested in. Remember that no job is ever beneath you. While in law school in my 30s, after serving as an FBI Special Agent, I proudly held the title 'Intern' in numerous jobs."