Kentucky lawmaker accused of sexual assault

AP News
Posted: Dec 11, 2017 5:13 PM
Kentucky lawmaker accused of sexual assault

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — A Republican Kentucky lawmaker known for his inflammatory social media posts comparing President Barack Obama and his wife to monkeys has been accused of sexual assault by a woman who attended his church. Both Republican and Democratic leaders on Monday called for Dan Johnson to resign.

The Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting quotes Maranda Richmond as saying that Johnson assaulted her in the basement of his house in the early morning hours of Jan. 1, 2013.

Police records obtained by the news organization show Richmond told them about the assault in 2013. But investigators closed the case and did not file charges. Johnson was elected to the state legislature in 2016. Neither Johnson nor police department officials returned calls from The Associated Press.

Reaction was swift from the leaders of the state's two major political parties, who said Johnson should resign immediately. David Osborne, acting speaker of the Kentucky House of Representatives, said the report was "compelling and deeply troubling."

Republican Gov. Matt Bevin was more cautious, saying he had not read the report and "let's wait until we get some facts" before commenting.

The allegation surfaced on the eve of a pivotal U.S. Senate election in Alabama, where Republican candidate Roy Moore is facing allegations of sexual misconduct from multiple women. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky has urged Moore to drop out of the race, while Republican President Donald Trump has campaigned for Moore.

Johnson is the bishop of Heart of Fire ministries in Louisville. The church is known for its "gun choir ," which features Johnson and others holding guns while singing "Amazing Grace." He ousted a Democratic incumbent during the 2016 elections, part of a wave of Republican victories that handed the GOP control of the state House of Representatives for the first time in nearly 100 years.

Richmond is a former member of Johnson's church and a friend of his daughter. The Associated Press does not generally identify alleged sexual assault victims, but is doing so because Richmond has gone public with her story. Attempts to find a phone number for Richmond were unsuccessful on Monday. She did not respond to a Facebook message.

She told the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting she attended a party at Johnson's home on New Year's Eve 2012. That night, Richmond said she was asleep on a couch in the basement when she woke up to find Johnson standing over her. She said he groped her, stuck his tongue in her mouth and slid his hands down her pants and into her vagina.

Richmond said she begged Johnson to stop, but that he kept telling her she would like it. Eventually, she said, Johnson stopped and left.

Richmond went to the police. Records show investigators with the Louisville Metro Police Department recorded a phone call between Johnson and Richmond's father, in which Johnson said he "couldn't imagine doing that to Maranda."

A detective closed the case in 2014 because the "victim refuses to cooperate," according to police documents posted online by the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting. Richmond denied this.

"I never once did not want to continue on," she said.

Representatives from the police department did not return multiple calls from The Associated Press seeking comment Monday.

The allegation against Johnson is not the only scandal to affect Kentucky House Republicans. Former Kentucky House Speaker Jeff Hoover resigned his leadership position last month after acknowledging he paid to settle a sexual-harassment claim made by a woman in his office. Three other Republican lawmakers were part of the secretive settlement and have been stripped of their committee chairmanships. All four remain in the state legislature.

This is the second time Republican leaders have asked for Johnson's resignation. In 2016, while he was a candidate for office, he was criticized for posting racists photos on his Facebook page comparing former President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama to monkeys. He rejected Republican leaders' calls for him to drop out of the race, and ended up winning it.

Bevin did not comment on Richmond's allegations against Johnson, telling reporters he has a policy of not speaking "specifically about an individual." He did say "there should be zero tolerance" for sexual harassment.

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