National News

Kentucky Lawmaker Kills Himself Amid Sexual Assault Allegations, Officials Say

Posted December 13, 2017 11:16 p.m. EST

A Kentucky state representative accused of molesting a teenage girl killed himself Wednesday, just two days after the allegations were made public, authorities said.

Rep. Dan Johnson, a first-term Republican, took his life on a bridge in Mount Washington, Kentucky, according to Sheriff Donnie Tinnell of Bullitt County, who spoke to the WDRB television.

On Monday, the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting published an extensive investigation alleging that Johnson had sexually assaulted a 17-year-old parishioner at the Heart of Fire Church in nearby Louisville, an evangelical church where he was bishop.

The parishioner, now 21, said that in the early hours of Jan. 1, 2013, after a New Year’s Eve party at the church, she and Johnson’s daughter slept over at an apartment below the fellowship hall. After falling asleep on a sofa, she said, she woke up to find Johnson — who was drunk after going to a bar earlier in the night — kneeling over her. He proceeded to kiss her, grope her breasts under her shirt, put his hand down her pants and penetrate her with his finger, she said.

The woman reported the assault to the Louisville Metro Police Department within months of the episode, but no charges were filed. However, her account was corroborated by family members, by her therapist’s notes from the first half of 2013 and by Facebook messages she exchanged with Johnson, the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting wrote.

Johnson, 57, vehemently denied the report, saying at a news conference Tuesday: “This allegation concerning this lady, this young girl, absolutely has no merit. These are unfounded accusations, totally.” He said he would not resign.

But at 4:59 p.m. Wednesday, he wrote a rambling Facebook post that hinted at suicide.

By 9:30 p.m., the post was no longer visible. A call to Johnson’s home was not returned Wednesday evening.

“My heart breaks for his family tonight,” Gov. Matt Bevin of Kentucky, a Republican, wrote on Twitter. “These are heavy days in Frankfort and in America.”

Jeff Hoover, who resigned as speaker of the Kentucky House last month amid allegations of sexual harassment, tweeted that Johnson had “reached out to me, encouraged me, and prayed for me” during “some of the darkest days” of Hoover’s life. In a second tweet, he appeared to place some blame for Johnson’s suicide on people who had spoken of the assault allegations “as truth.”

Tinnell and the Mount Washington Police Department did not respond to requests for more information Wednesday evening.

In the past two months, allegations of sexual assault or harassment have emerged against dozens of prominent men, including politicians, entertainers and journalists. Many of them have resigned or been fired as a result.

Johnson had been in the House for less than a year after defeating a Democratic incumbent in the 2016 election. During the campaign, officials in his own party had criticized him for inflammatory Facebook posts, including one that depicted Barack and Michelle Obama as apes, and another that read: “Allah sucks. Mohammed sucks. Islam sucks. Any of you Hadji’s have an issue with me saying this, PM me and I’ll gladly give you my address. You can come visit me, where I promise I will KILL YOU in my front yard!!”