UPDATE: The Denver Post’s Anna Staver reports new damning details that almost certainly should result in Rep. Jovan Melton’s swift resignation:
The Denver Post interviewed the woman from the first incident but is withholding her name at her request due to safety concerns.
She said she hasn’t talked to Melton since that night in December 1999, and she’s afraid of him to this day. That fear, she said, is a big part of why she moved to another state.
“I absolutely would fear for my personal safety if still lived in Denver, anywhere in the state,” she said. [Pols emphasis]
The woman told The Denver Post she felt like their college friends and the legal system favored Melton at the time, making Boulder a lonely place to be after his arrest. She left CU afterward.
There’s no road back from this, folks. Not in elected office anyway.
UPDATE #2: The Colorado Democratic Party issues a statement this afternoon from Party Chair Morgan Carroll:
“The incidents detailed against Representative Melton are shocking and saddening. I have privately told Rep. Melton that I think it is in the best interest of his district for him to step down. At the end of the day, public service is about putting the public first.”
“As Democrats, we fully acknowledge the gravity of domestic violence and recognize that both survivors of abuse and people of color have been failed by the criminal justice system. While a criminal record doesn’t inherently prevent someone from running for elected office, some conduct, even if in the past, truly impacts the public’s trust in an elected office and the ability to effectively advocate for the community.”
UPDATE: House Democratic leadership have asked for Rep. Jovan Melton’s resignation, via Marianne Goodland at the Colorado Springs Gazette:
Speaker of the House Crisanta Duran of Denver, Majority Leader KC Becker of Boulder and Assistant Majority Leader Alec Garnett of Denver said in a statement Wednesday afternoon that the allegations first revealed in a Denver Post story Tuesday are “deeply disturbing and very serious. We have spoken with Rep. Melton privately and encouraged him to resign.”
It is Melton’s decision “whether to step down,” the three lawmakers’ statement continued. In addition, they said, “we recognize that the criminal justice system has not worked for far too many people of color and survivors. People should not necessarily be precluded from running for office because they have issues in their past. But we urge him to consider the seriousness of the story and the impact on the people of his district and on the public confidence in the legislature.”
State Rep. Jovan Melton (D-Aurora) should resign.
According to new allegations unearthed by the Denver Post, the Aurora Democrat has a frightening history of violence against women. Melton denies these allegations, but unless can prove that police reports documenting several separate incidents are unfounded, he should immediately resign from his position as a State Representative and declare that he will not be seeking re-election this fall.
According to police and court records, Melton has demonstrated a pattern of physical violence against women, including an incident in which a former girlfriend alleged that Melton broke her tailbone. As Colorado Public Radio reports:
“The behaviors detailed in the police report are incredibly troubling,” said Amy Pohl with Violence Free Colorado, the statewide domestic violence coalition. “We do really believe people can change, but first they have to take responsibility for their behavior. That’s the first step. Admitting that you did something wrong.”
She added that Melton may be avoiding accountability when he said no violence occurred. “Can people really change their behavior if they’re not willing to take really responsibility for what actually happened?”
Melton voted to expel former Democratic Rep. Steve Lebsock from office, after an outside investigation found it credible that Lebsock sexually harassed five women and retaliated against them for coming forward. Former lobbyist Holly Tarry, one of Lebsock’s accusers, was glad members in both parties voted to oust Lebsock. She also believes Melton should no longer serve as a state lawmaker.
Melton also signed a letter last month from House Democrats calling for Republican lawmakers to undergo sexual harassment training after several in the GOP made jokes about sexual harassment and misconduct allegations targeting now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh (of course, Senate Republicans have repeatedly refused to do anything about sexual harassment charges against their own members). Democrats were right to push for Lebsock’s expulsion and to admonish Colorado Republicans for joking about the Kavanaugh allegations.
Melton should back up his previous actions by acknowledging that he should no longer serve as a State Representative in light of these allegations against him, but that has not been his initial response. Here’s what Melton wrote on his Facebook page on Tuesday:
Serving House District 41 has been the honor of my life, and when I ran for this seat six years ago I never said I was perfect, but I strive to give a voice to underserved communities. First let me acknowledge that violence or aggression against women is never okay, and the allegations reported in the Denver Post and captured in the police reports from 1999 and 2008 demonstrate that as a young man I fundamentally lacked the emotional acuity to be able to properly manage emotional and stressful situations. While I categorically deny any allegations that suggest any violence against the women involved, I am both embarrassed and heartbroken to be reminded of my immaturity all those years ago. As both a victim of childhood violence and to have caused pain and anguish for these women is horrible and for that I am sorry. I hope that both women can forgive me for the emotional pain that I’ve caused them.
I’m reminded of an old saying that my past will not define my future. Today, I am stronger, more mature and deeply committed to seeking the appropriate counseling to ensure that my emotions never fuel these types of events in the future. As a black man, the odds are stacked against us from the beginning, but as I stand today, I want to remind young men of color that violence or aggression against women is never acceptable. As a legislator, I now have an obligation to serve not only young people of color as a role model, but to be an advocate for women who witness or are victims of violence, assault, or aggression. I look forward to putting my head down and working on these issues with my colleagues in the legislature in January.
Many of the Republicans screaming for Melton’s head are the same people who argued that Kavanaugh was “not on trial” during the confirmation process that dominated media coverage for much of the last month. Supporters of Melton will make a similar argument – that he paid a legal price for his past transgressions and shouldn’t be “re-tried” on old charges. As we said before regarding Kavanaugh, this argument misses the point entirely.
Kavanaugh was, in a sense, “on trial” for one of the most important jobs in the United States. Melton is “on trial” here because he is an elected representative of his community. These are unique circumstances that involve unique positions.
Kavanaugh should have removed himself as a nominee because he is not fit to serve on the Supreme Court. Melton should step aside because a man with a violent past like this should not be a state lawmaker. We should hold our elected and appointed officials to a different standard than the average person. We should demand more from the people who are in a position to make decisions that can alter the lives of hundreds of thousands of others.
In his response to these allegations, Melton brings up an oft-used quote that “my past should not define my future.” This is a sentiment that is often overused and misunderstood. It is important for all of us to be able to move forward in life without being held back by our mistakes, but that does not mean that what happened in our past is no longer relevant to our future. If you don’t have 20/20 vision, then you’re probably not going to grow up to be a fighter pilot. And that’s okay. There are innumerable other jobs that you could hold in the future. If you are 5’6” tall and 130 pounds, you’re not going to be an offensive lineman in the NFL. That’s okay, too.
We don’t know if Melton would have still been elected in 2012 if voters had been aware of his violent past. Melton is running unopposed for re-election this fall, so “letting the voters decide” isn’t a real option.
We certainly wouldn’t say that Melton should be disqualified from any profession because of his violent past, but there are absolutely some jobs that no longer make sense for him — and that includes serving in the State Legislature.
Melton says that he has “an obligation to serve not only young people of color as a role model, but to be an advocate for women who witness or are victims of violence, assault, or aggression.” This is his chance.