A former Michigan state lawmaker has denied allegations he subjected a woman to repeated sexual assaults for several years dating back to the time she was a teenager.
Former House speaker Lee Chatfield has admitted to knowing the 27-year-old woman who accused him, but claimed Friday that the relationship was consensual. The woman, who has not been publicly identified, said Chatfield began assaulting her at the Gaylord Northern Michigan Baptist Bible Church roughly 12 years ago when she was just 15-years-old, her lawyer told the Lansing City Pulse.
Chatfield, who was elected house speaker during his final term and left office due to term limits in December 2020, addressed the allegations on Friday, vehemently denying the claims and vowing to fight them. In a statement through his lawyer, the lawmaker admitted to a sexual entanglement with his accuser that “lasted for years,” but insisted that it had been an ongoing affair between two “consenting adults.”
“Mr. Chatfield is innocent of the false rape claims made against him. He had affairs while he was married, including a sexual relationship with the woman who is now claiming she was raped,” his lawyer, Mary Chartier wrote.
Chatfield’s lawyer suggested that the Michigan Republican had deep regrets over the lengthy encounter which she said “has caused great pain to his wife and family.”
“But he did not assault this woman in any manner during their years-long adult relationship,” she wrote. “He intends to vigorously fight these false claims.”
The Michigan State Police have said they will investigate the allegations against Chatfield after the agency was notified about the complaint by the Lansing Police Department last week.
According to the accuser’s lawyer, Jamie White, who has represented sexual assault survivors abused by Larry Nassar, Chatfield was employed at the religious northern Michigan school before he was elected to the state legislature in 2014. His father, Rusty Chatfield, is an administrator at the school, according to its website.
Lee Chatfield was both a teacher at the school, as well as the men’s soccer coach and the athletic director, according to a biography listed on the Michigan House Republicans website.
After leaving office, Chatfield served a brief stint as the chief executive of the Southwest Michigan First, an economic development group, but he resigned over his record on LGBTQ issues.
The accuser’s lawyer said Chatfield’s alleged sexual abuse lasted up until July 2021.
“We are very confident that between Michigan State Police and our independent investigation he’s going to be held accountable,” White told the Detroit News. “This young woman is extremely terrified of what’s coming forward for her as far as how the ex-speaker is going to respond. We’re wrapping our arms around her to make sure she has tools to deal with this.”