The top Democrats in the Colorado House of Representatives say they urged state Rep. Jovan Melton, D-Aurora, to resign soon after they were informed last week about domestic violence charges he faced years before he was elected.
Melton told leadership he would not step down.
House Majority Leader KC Becker said House leadership learned of the charges on Oct. 4.
“We immediately went to Jovan and said, ‘What happened in 1999 and 2008?’” Becker told The Colorado Sun. “We wanted to get his take on things and see what he thought. We discussed it for awhile.”
The leaders asked Melton to resign. Becker said Melton told House Democratic leadership that he wanted the weekend to mull it over.
On Monday, she said, Assistant House Majority Leader Alec Garnett called Melton and learned Melton “had decided that he would not resign.”
By Wednesday, Melton faced a growing chorus of calls to step down, including from the state’s Democratic chairwoman, who said he cannot effectively represent his district with the cloud of the past allegations hanging over him.
Becker, a Boulder Democrat, says that “a third party” brought the allegations to the attention of House Democratic leadership. Then The Denver Post inquired about Melton’s past run ins with law enforcement earlier this week.
The Post published a story Tuesday outlining domestic violence cases against Melton involving two separate women in 1999 and 2008.
The newspaper reported that in the first case he was accused of choking a girlfriend while he was a student at the University of Colorado and received a deferred sentence. In the second, he was accused of hitting his girlfriend but the charges were dismissed.
The timeline of when Becker, Duran and Garnett knew about the allegations against Melton are significant because Republican leaders in the House on Wednesday accused Democrats of trying to cover them up.
Melton, the Democrats’ chief deputy whip, has denied that he was ever violent toward women, but in a statement acknowledged mistakes he made as a younger man.
“First let me acknowledge that violence or aggression against women is never OK, 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,” he wrote in a statement. “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.”
He added: “’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. … I look forward to putting my head down and working on these issues with my colleagues in the legislature in January.”
Melton did not return requests for comment from The Sun. He is running for a fourth and final term in the state House, and is expected to easily win in his Democratic district.
On Wednesday, Becker, Garnett and outgoing House Speaker Crisanta Duran released a joint statement saying they had been privately encouraging Melton to resign.
“I think Rep. Melton should resign because his ability to represent his district is compromised just through this entire story and process,” Becker, who is in line to be House speaker for the 2019 legislative session, said in the interview. “It’s just going to be more difficult for him to be an effective legislator with this kind of cloud over him. I think it’s about: Is it going to be harder for other legislators or lobbyists to want to work with him?”
Colorado Democratic Party Chairwoman Morgan Carroll on Wednesday said she has encouraged Melton resign, noting that she had spoken privately to him.
“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,” Carroll said in a written statement.
A spokeswoman for Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, said he was traveling and could not immediately be reached to comment on the allegations against Melton.
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