Home News New reports of domestic assaults emerge for anti-police Minnesota Rep. John Thompson

New reports of domestic assaults emerge for anti-police Minnesota Rep. John Thompson

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Briana Bierschbach

Star Tribune

Minnesota’s top Democratic officials are calling for the resignation of state Rep. John Thompson amid reports of past domestic violence allegations, the latest in a string of controversies surrounding the first-term lawmaker.

The four domestic assault cases spanned 2003-10 and included allegations that Thompson punched and choked women, sometimes in the presence of children. Fox 9 first reported the allegations Friday night.

The allegations tipped the scales against Thompson for many Democrats, including DFL Gov. Tim Walz, who have been pressured to respond after other high-profile incidents involving the St. Paul lawmaker.

“The alleged acts of violence against multiple women outlined in these reports are serious and deeply disturbing,” Walz said in a statement. “Minnesotans deserve representatives of the highest moral character, who uphold our shared values. Rep. Thompson can no longer effectively be that leader and he should immediately resign.”

Thompson did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But his attorney, Jordan Kushner, said Thompson “maintains the allegations are false and he was never found guilty of them in a court.”

Thompson did not plan to step down as of Saturday evening, Kushner said. “It’s a shame that there’s no concern about due process,” he said.

In a statement issued Sunday, Kushner said said Thompson “challenges the authenticity of the police reports that have been circulated to the press” and that he and his wife, the only person he would have been with at the time, deny the allegations. He said the reports were likely circulated to the press by law enforcement groups engaged in a “smear campaign” against Thompson.

“If these police reports existed in their current form, it is unfathomable that the many people digging into Mr. Thompson’s past would not have found those police reports before the November election much less during the ensuing months. The police reports are a product of the campaign 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 been in the spotlight since July 4, when a St. Paul police officer pulled him over because his car did not have a front license plate, and cited him for driving under suspension. Thompson, a longtime activist whose work as a legislator includes a push to change laws regarding police encounters, said police racially profiled him.

The traffic stop drew more attention to his past record, which includes a 2019 misdemeanor charge of obstructing the legal process after he argued with officers over their treatment of the family and friends of a patient at North Memorial Health Hospital. Thompson is fighting that charge in court.

The traffic stop also raised questions about Thompson’s residency after he presented a Wisconsin driver’s license to the officer who pulled him over. He later said that he has never had a Minnesota license.

An October 2003 domestic abuse report, according to Fox 9, was filed in Superior, Wis., when Thompson allegedly struck his girlfriend in the face in a supermarket parking lot in front of her 5-year-old daughter. He fled police but eventually pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of disorderly conduct.

A year later, Thompson allegedly attacked the same woman in her Eagan apartment, hitting her, choking and threatening her because she had dialed 911. Fox 9 reported that children were present.

In 2009, police were called after an argument broke out between Thompson and two women over a cellphone, during which Thompson allegedly exposed his genitals in front of one woman and her children, Fox 9 said. He was not charged with domestic assault in any of these instances.

Along with Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan, DFL House Speaker Melissa Hortman, House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler and state DFL Party Chairman Ken Martin all called for Thompson’s immediate resignation Saturday, sending out releases within minutes of one another. Also calling for Thompson’s resignation was U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum, whose congressional district includes St. Paul.

“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,” Flanagan said in a statement. “Someone who has allegedly demonstrated this violent pattern of behavior, especially in the presence of children, is unfit to serve in elected office.”

Thompson entered politics after police fatally shot his friend Philando Castile in Falcon Heights during a traffic stop five years ago. In the 2021 session, he pushed to end such stops for low-level violations, saying they disproportionately target people of color.

But in a joint statement, Hortman and Winkler said the recent reports of Thompson’s behavior have hindered the push for police accountability measures.

” Rep. Thompson ran for office to advance progressive policies, but his recent actions, and unacceptable reports of abuse and misconduct, have become an impediment to that work,” they said.

House Republican Minority Leader Kurt Daudt said members of his caucus will file ethics complaints against Thompson on Monday if he does not resign before then. Rep. Eric Lucero, R- Dayton, filed an unrelated complaint against Thompson, who called Lucero racist on the House floor. A hearing is scheduled Friday on that complaint, which said Thompson violated House conduct.

” Rep. Thompson’s disturbing domestic violence incidents, malicious accusations of racism against law enforcement and colleagues at the Legislature, and disregard for state law makes it clear he is unfit to serve in the Minnesota House,” Daudt said.

Thompson first sparked controversy as a DFL-endorsed candidate for the House last summer after video showed him striking an effigy of former Minneapolis police union head Bob Kroll and his wife outside their home.

If he doesn’t resign, a House ethics panel can recommend action by the full chamber. Any vacancy in his seat would be filled by a special election called by Walz.

Staff reporter Erin Golden contributed to this report.

Briana Bierschbach • 651-925-5042

©2021 StarTribune. Visit startribune.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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