COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - A South Carolina lawmaker has been arrested and charged following an altercation between himself and a fellow lawmaker, according to the Richland County Sheriff's Department.
Rep. Jerry Govan is charged with 3rd-degree assault.
Sheriff Leon Lott confirmed that his department is investigating the May 11, 2017, incident between Representatives Gilda Cobb-Hunter (D-Orangeburg) and Jerry Govan (D-Orangeburg) under the charge of assault. The investigation is being coordinated with the state solicitor's office.
Cobb-Hunter filed a report with the sheriff's department on Oct. 11.
Both Cobb-Hunter and Govan agree the altercation began as a verbal argument over a contentious bill to consolidate Orangeburg County school districts. They say it happened in the narrow hallway between the House chamber and a meeting room.
The Fifth Circuit Solicitor's Office reviewed the sheriff's department's investigation of the incident. The case was sent to a Midlands magistrate who then found probable cause.
Govan turned himself into the sheriff's department.
But Govan denies initiating contact. Instead, he says he's the victim because she struck him first. When Govan spoke after the hearing, he compared his life to Biblical stories, and himself to Jesus saying even he was falsely accused.
"Just chalking it up to one of those things that you go through as you go through your experience in life, you know," Govan said. "Being faithful and true and telling the truth isn't something that just happens, you know. You have to go through your through or face your Red Sea. And at this point in my life this, I guess is my Red Sea."
House Speaker Jay Lucas commented on the incident Thursday morning. "Under my leadership as Speaker, the South Carolina House of Representatives has a zero-tolerance policy for unwanted contact of any kind," Lucas said. "Every incident brought to my attention is immediately and thoroughly investigated by an outside counsel. As soon as I was made aware of the incident involving Representatives Cobb-Hunter and Govan on May 11, 2017, an exhaustive investigation immediately commenced. All known witness, particularly those identified by Representative Cobb-Hunter, were interviewed the day of the incident. As the investigator continued his review, he was instructed to seek out additional testimony from potential witnesses who had not been interviewed on May 11, 2017, to ensure the investigation was as comprehensive as possible. Based upon a lack of evidence, the investigation could not conclude that Rep. Govan assaulted Rep. Cobb-Hunter."
"Representative Govan's decision to turn himself in suggests a separate conclusion has been reached by Richland County law enforcement. I believe this conclusion is based on altered testimony or a differing recollection of events than those available to me throughout the House's investigation. Given these inconsistencies that have now arisen five months after the initial event, this matter is best handled through the criminal justice system. I stand willing and able to assist law enforcement with any information or materials that were gathered during the House's detailed and impartial investigation."
A Richland County judge grated Govan, who did not appear in court, a $1087.50 personal recognizance bond on Thursday afternoon.