Minnesota’s governor and other high-profile Democrats are calling on a Democrat state representative to resign after abuse allegations surfaced and police body camera footage indicated he misrepresented a traffic stop.
But Minnesota Rep. John Thompson says he won’t step down from office.
Local media found that Thompson was the subject of four allegations of domestic violence, with police reports from 2003 to 2009 showing accusers alleging that Thompson punched, hit, and choked them.
The cases were filed in Wisconsin.
Prosecutors either declined to pursue charges in the cases or have an open investigation. In one case, Thompson pleaded guilty to lesser charges.
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, a Democrat, was among those calling for Thompson to step down over the allegations.
“Minnesotans deserve representatives who uphold the highest moral character and share our values,” he said in a statement over the weekend. “Following the deeply disturbing reports of domestic violence against multiple women, Rep. Thompson can no longer effectively be that leader and should immediately resign.”
“As a mom, advocate for children, and survivor and child witness of domestic violence, I know the deeply traumatic impact of the actions outlined in reports against Rep. Thompson,” added Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan, a Democrat. “Someone who has allegedly demonstrated this violent pattern of behavior, especially in the presence of children, is unfit to serve in elected office.”
Minnesota House Speaker Melissa Hortman and House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler, as well as Ken Martin, who chairs the Minnesota Democratic–Farmer–Labor Party, joined the calls for Thompson’s resignation.
In a July 18 statement on Facebook, Thompson’s attorney Jordan Kushner said his client “challenges the authenticity of the police reports.”
“Mr. Thompson and his wife—the only person whom Mr. Thompson would have been with at the times of the incidents—categorically deny that any of the inflammatory allegations (including but not limited to choking anyone or exposing himself) ever occurred,” Kushner said.
The lawyer also claimed that persons linked to law enforcement groups provided the reports to news outlets as part of a “smear campaign” against him that’s aimed to “silence an American African man who speaks out against powerful and abusive interests, and not the product of any effort to uncover truth.”
Thompson has no plans of stepping down, he said through the attorney.
The resignation calls follow another situation involving the first-term representative.
A police officer in St. Paul, Minnesota, pulled Thompson over on July 4 because he said the lawmaker was driving without a front license plate. Thompson told the officer that he was a state representative but presented a Wisconsin driver’s license. The officer told Thompson that his license in Minnesota was suspended, according to recently released body camera footage.
Thompson claimed he was pulled over because he was black.
St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell said the traffic stop was “by the book.”
“What happened afterward was anything but. I’m dismayed and disappointed by the state representative’s response to the stop,” Axtell said in a statement.
“Rather than taking responsibility for his own decisions and actions, he attempted to deflect, cast aspersions, and deny any wrongdoing,” he added, calling for Thompson to apologize.
In his own statement, Thompson said he was pulled over in what is known as “a pretextual traffic stop,” the same type that led to the police shootings of Philando Castile, who was fatally shot by a former officer later charged with manslaughter, and Daunte Wright, who was killed while trying to flee police by a former officer who now faces charges.
“During my stop, it was brought up that my vehicle did not have a front license plate, I did not have a Minnesota driver’s license, and there was a record of me having missed a child support payment. While all of these have relatively simple explanations, I take responsibility for my fault in not addressing these issues and allowing them to eclipse the hard-fought work done in the name of police reform,” he said.
“I was able to drive away from this interaction while other Black Minnesotans, in very similar situations, have not. The desire to be treated with respect and be able to drive away from this interaction safely was why I informed the officer I was a State Representative during our conversation.”