Rep. Dan Johnson rejects calls for resignation, denies sexual abuse allegations

12/12/2017 02:09 PM

State Rep. Dan Johnson rejected calls for his resignation from Kentucky’s House of Representatives on Tuesday and denied allegations from a 21-year-old woman that he sexually assaulted her when she was 17.

Johnson, R-Mt. Washington, faced mounting pressure from leaders in the state’s Republican and Democratic parties following a report by the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting detailing Maranda Richmond’s account of New Year’s Eve 2012, in which she said Johnson forcibly kissed her and fondled her beneath her clothes as she slept near his daughter at Heart of Fire Church, where he ministers.

Johnson, who was joined at the church by about a dozen family members and friends during a news conference at the church Tuesday, said the accusation “absolutely has no merit” and “is totally false.”

“I’m not standing here today to step down or to resign or to do anything like that,” he said.

Johnson, who said he acted as a counselor for the woman, denied that anything happened between him and Richmond that night, other than that he “had heard that she thought I was very hard-handed on some of the things I said and felt that they were condemning.”

He said he “never” entered Richmond’s room as she slept.

“That’s the point is none of that ever happened, so that’s why I can stand up today and say this is totally wrong,” Johnson said.

Johnson said some details of the alleged incident were news to him as he read the report. According to the KyCIR report, Richmond’s father, Cliff Richmond, called Johnson at the behest of detectives on a recorded line and asked the pastor whether he had sexually assaulted his daughter.

Johnson, according to the report, said he didn’t remember and that he had been drugged at a bar that night, something he also told Maranda Richmond in a Facebook message after the alleged incident. In that message, he apologized for speaking harshly toward her and his kids and “telling you all to go to bed.”

Johnson remembers the phone call differently.

“What had happened is there had been some issues with counseling that I can’t go into,” he told reporters. “You know, there’s no way I can do that, and you know, he, whenever he spoke that, he was in disbelief of what was being said, and it was a first for me. For that to ever go any further, I have no clue.”

The freshman Republican said he had never spoken with Louisville Metro Police Department officers about the allegations but would if asked. Police had closed the matter after the detective determined that Richmond did not want to proceed with the investigation, but she and her parents say that wasn’t the case, according to the KyCIR report.

Johnson said today’s society seems apt to jumping to conclusions “without any proof,” and he blamed the report on politics, particularly his Democratic foe in the 2016 election, former state Rep. Linda Belcher.

“A lot of this got produced from Linda Belcher,” he said. “She has promoted this. I actually have her brother here today that stands with me today and did in the first campaign, and you know, this thing has become politicized.”

“When a Democratic mayor jumps back in to try to reopen a case and he’s a Democratic and I’m a Republican, we stand on two different playing fields totally on what we believe in,” Johnson added, referencing Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer’s call for more information on why the sexual abuse case was closed.

Johnson called the accusation against him “horrible” and that he’s “mad as can be” about the situation.

“No one wants to be accused falsely,” he said.

Leaders from both state political parties and House caucuses have called for Johnson’s resignation, but Johnson said those who have “gotten wobbly in how they’re standing with me in the political ranks” should “toughen up a little bit.”

“We’re in a position right now I think as a nation where I think everyone in public office or in public work is at risk of an accusation,” Johnson said. “This is just not a good thing.”

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