A Minnesota lawmaker says he "deeply regrets" his actions after he was accused by an advocate of unwanted touching, but says his attempted comforting of the woman were misconstrued.
State Rep. Rod Hamilton (R–Mountain Lake) is the subject of a complaint made to St. Paul Police Department by a woman who works as an advocate for a sexual violence center, according to the Pioneer Press.
The complainant says she was at Rep. Hamilton's St. Paul apartment on Apr. 13, where he allegedly stroked her hair, traced the outline of her ear with his finger, kissed her on the cheek, touched her hands and hugged her against her wishes.
In a statement sent to BMTN, Rep. Hamilton said: "I deeply regret the effect my actions had on [his accuser].
"I intended to offer comfort and compassion to a person who was going through a difficult time. I now understand that my actions, while well-intentioned may be viewed differently by a survivor of sexual assault, and that it may have caused additional pain and hardship.
"For that I fully apologize."
Rep. Hamilton says he's reported the incident to the House HR Department, and as of yet has not been contacted by police regarding the allegations.
"I will cooperate fully with any investigation conducted either by law enforcement or the House Human Resources Department."
In the wake of the allegation coming to light, House Speaker Kurt Daudt and Majority Leader Rep. Joyce Peppin announced Rep. Hamilton has been suspended from his committee chairmanship while the HR department investigates.
Police told the Star Tribune that at the moment there's not enough evidence for a criminal case, noting that it's a crime for anyone to engage in "nonconsensual sexual contact" that includes touching a victim's "intimate parts."
Rep. Hamilton did not touch said parts, his accuser told officers.
Just on Wednesday, the Minnesota House approved a new sexual harassment policy that is applicable to lawmakers even when they're not on the Capitol grounds.
It follows the resignations of two lawmakers, former GOP Rep. Tony Cornish and former DFL Sen. Dan Schoen, after they were accused of sexually inappropriate conduct.