The gay-activist Democrat mayor of College Park, Maryland, who has branded himself as something of a role model for LGBTQ youth, was arrested Thursday morning on dozens of counts of possessing and distributing child pornography, totaling 56 child sex offenses.
47-year-old Patrick Lewis Wojahn, a regular White House guest and the first openly gay man to take mayoral office in his city, is charged with 40 counts of possession of child sexual exploitative material and 16 felony counts of distribution of child porn.
Wojahn, who ran for mayor in 2015 following eight years of service on the city council "to help College Park realize its unfulfilled promise of becoming a top-tier college town," was busted after the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) notified the Prince George's County Police Department on Feb. 17 that images and videos of child sexual abuse were uploaded in January to a social media account operating in its jurisdiction. PGPD investigators soon discovered that the account in question belonged to Wojahn, according to a press release issued Thursday by the police department. PGPD detectives served a search warrant Tuesday at Wojahn's home in College Park, where investigators recovered multiple cell phones, a storage device, a tablet, and a computer before the mayor was handcuffed Thursday by the police department's Internet Crimes Against Child Unit.
As journalist Andy Ngo reported, Wojahn used to have the Instagram username and Twitter handle, "Patrick4CP," his re-election tagline, Patrick for College Park. Child pornography is often abbreviated as "CP" by child predators searching for it online.
The mayor is now in the custody of the Department of Corrections and is due to appear in court for a bail-review hearing Friday afternoon and a preliminary hearing at the end of the month on March 31. The criminal investigation remains "open and active."
Wojahn has since submitted a letter of resignation, stating he has and will continue to "cooperate fully" with law enforcement.
"While this investigation does not involve any official city business of any kind, it is in the best interests of our community that I step aside and not serve as a distraction..." Wojahn wrote Thursday in the memo posted to the city of College Park's official site.
"Many of you have already reached out with well wishes and thoughts, and I am eternally grateful. I am stepping away to deal with my own mental health," Wojahn stated, adding: "I ask that you continue to keep me and my family in your prayers."
The city of College Park—ranked one of America's top LGBTQ-inclusive cities and home to the University of Maryland—released its own statement on Wojahn's resignation that was submitted Wednesday night, "thanking" the mayor "for his many years of dedicated service." Last year, College Park received a perfect 100 on its Municipal Equality Index scorecard from the gay-lobbying group Human Rights Campaign (HRC), which doled out extra credit for the city's openly LGBTQ elected leaders.
In 2020, city leadership publicly celebrated the first time it earned a perfect score, with Wojahn declaring that "College Park aims to be a welcoming community for all, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity." The rating, which the mayor "worked for several years to achieve," "recognizes our true commitment to diversity, inclusion, and equity," Wojahn stated.
LGBTQ allies in the city had claimed that Wojahn "faced homophobia" on the 2019 campaign trail when a mayoral challenger rejected Wojahn's efforts to make College Park more LGBTQ-friendly as an agenda she said was "totally against" her Christian beliefs. "We find strength in our diversity," Wojahn responded in a post-victory interview with the Washington Blade, self-dubbed "America's LGBTQ New Source." Wojahn added during the discussion: "And the residents of College Park understand that."
College Park will hold a special election within 65 days to elect a new mayor, the city announced. Until then, "effective immediately," Mayor Pro Tem Denise Mitchell will serve as "presiding officer" of the city as Wojahn's temporary replacement.
Hours after College Park's initial response when news broke of Wojahn's arrest (yet there was no mention of the child-porn charges in its first statement), the city issued a follow-up press release acknowledging the allegations: "We are shocked and disturbed by the news; what has come to light in this investigation is a total surprise to us." Mitchell reacted as well to the "very difficult day for the residents, staff and elected officials in College Park." The city's Board of Election Supervisors will convene Friday to discuss the logistics involved in filling the vacant mayoral seat, Mitchell stated, for the upcoming special election.
Wojahn was proudly endorsed by the LGBTQ+ Victory Fund, which is "dedicated to increasing the number of openly LGBTQ public officials in the United States," during his unopposed 2021 re-election campaign—when he secured his fourth mayoral term—and won the left-wing political action committee (PAC)'s endorsement multiple times over the years in both 2019 and 2017.
The disgraced mayor has frequented the White House for an array of Pride events hosted by Biden, whom Wojahn considers "the most pro-LGBTQ President in US history!" In mid-December, Wojahn and his husband were invited to attend Biden's signing ceremony of the Respect for Marriage Act on the White House's South Lawn. "It certainly is a momentous occasion," Wojahn commented to WTOP News, where Wojahn's spouse Dave Kolesar is the outlet's senior broadcast engineer.
Decades ago, Wojahn rose to political prominence when he and Kolesar were named plaintiffs in the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)'s 2004 lawsuit seeking to overturn a ban on gay marriage in Maryland. At first, a judge ruled in the same-sex couple's favor, but an appeals court later overturned the ruling, finding that the ban did not violate the state's constitution.
At the White House on Tuesday, President Biden signed the Respect for Marriage Act into law, and among the many couples who gathered to witness and celebrate the signing was the mayor of College Park, Maryland, and his husband.— WTOP (@WTOP) December 14, 2022
Today, Wojahn reminisces how he was "mentored" by the Biden administration's Transporation Secretary, Pete Buttigieg.
The duo met when Wojahn was first elected in 2015 and went to the U.S. Conference of Mayors winter meeting in the nation's capital, where the Biden official "was assigned to be my buddy." (Not long afterward, the pair's respective marital partners, Kolesar and Chasten Buttigieg, were introduced to each other at a White House reception under the Obama administration.)
The two men talked about "the challenges of being an openly gay mayor, with Buttigieg sharing with his mentee the story of his coming out while serving in office," according to the Washington Blade's sit-down conversation with Wojahn. At the time, Wojahn wanted the city to cover the cost of "gender-reassignment surgery" for trans government employees through its healthcare plan.
"If you notice a pattern across all of my policies, it’s this: The answers don't all have to come from Washington, but more of the resources should. And on my watch, they will, to support American mayors and cities." -- @PeteButtigieg at #MayorsDC20 pic.twitter.com/5XsztSez4F— Patrick Wojahn (@plwojahn) January 23, 2020
Wojahn and Buttigieg kept in touch as time passed. At a summertime campaign stop in Maryland, the mentor and mentee reunited to drink beers together during Buttigieg's failed 2020 presidential run when he banked Wojahn's ringing endorsement.
Back in the spring of 2021, Wojahn was once a guest panelist headlining one of the D.C.-based LGBTQ activist organization Capital Pride Alliance's "learning and activism" #StillWeLEAD sessions focusing on "key areas impacting our LGBTQ+ community and our responsibility as leaders within our organizations to support and foster an intersectional social justice movement."
"We want to cultivate the voices of our youth, lift the voices of our most marginalized, and rediscover the voices of our elders. It is crucial to understand where the LGBTQ+ movement began and how our history informs our present," reads the March 2021 event description. "We will create a space to discuss our current struggles and provide opportunities to build a better future."
In the summer of that year, Capital Pride Alliance spotlighted the Prince George's County Memorial Library System's "Up and Out" Pride-themed panel featuring Wojahn to discuss "community and resources available for LGBTQ+ youth" in the county.