One candidate for the Missouri House of Representatives is accusing another of sexual assault in a letter to House leaders.
"Earlier this week, I reported a sexual assault to the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department," wrote Cora Faith Walker, a 31-year-old Democrat running unopposed in the 74th district (Ferguson). "I named my rapist as Steven Roberts, Jr., who hopes to be in the Capitol next year as the Representative of the 77th District."
Roberts called the allegations "completely and unequivocally false.” He described their interactions, which reportedly occurred at his apartment on the evening of Aug. 26 or early Aug. 27 as “consensual.”
Roberts, also a Democrat, has not been charged with any crime.
The St. Louis Police Department’s media relations department declined to comment about the investigation. Roberts’ lawyer, prominent St. Louis criminal defense attorney Scott Rosenblum, did not return phone calls.
Walker told Post-Dispatch columnist Tony Messenger that she arrived at Roberts's St. Louis apartment around 9:30 p.m. on Aug. 26 to discuss how they might work together in the House.
After having two glasses of wine, she told Messenger, the next thing she remembered was waking up in a bed.
"I had no recollection of why I was still there," she told Messenger.
In her letter, Walker asked House members to “do everything in your power to prevent Mr. Roberts from perpetuating sexual violence, sexual assault, or sexual harassment against me or anyone else in the Capitol. I respectfully request that you not allow Mr. Roberts to be sworn in until this investigation is complete. In the alternative, I ask that his presence in the Capitol be monitored by security.”
In a statement released on Saturday, Missouri Republican House Speaker Todd Richardson said “we will monitor the criminal investigation closely and continue to have a zero tolerance policy for sexual assault, misconduct and harassment.”
Roberts was arrested in 2015 on suspicion of second-degree sodomy. The prosecuting attorney ultimately decided to “defer prosecution,” ending the case.
Dave Robertson, a political science professor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis who has been providing political analysis for years, said he has never seen a situation like this.
“They’re not running against each other and both of them will get elected so there’s no motivation there,” Robertson said. “The bigger picture here is that people look at this as another problem within the legislature and what the speaker is going to do about it. This is a very, very serious allegation and will take a good deal of time and investigation.”
Robertson said that despite the allegations, Roberts would be entitled to take his seat in January.
“He will be an elected official so he has to take his seat,” Robertson said. “I think there will be requests for (Roberts) to resign but it will take more than a request from the minority leader. It may take leaders in different offices, such as from the U.S. House. Democrat leaders will want to consider asking him to resign before this becomes a bigger scandal for all Democrats. Democrats will want to get this off the agenda to show they are not part of any unethical conduct.”
Robertson said this incident shines a spotlight on the current “war on women” everywhere.
“It’s pervasive around the country and is an increasing concern,” Robertson said. “There are scandals in legislatures around the country. It’s in all walks of life. We’ve seen it on college campuses. They are talking about it in the presidential race.”
Robertson said that despite scandals that involved former U.S. Congressmen Anthony Weiner and Mark Foley, the scandals are more rampant on a state level.
“I think it’s a little less on Capitol Hill because it’s more visible,” Robertson said. “With state legislatures, most are away from the big media markets. Just like here in Missouri, Jefferson City is a small, out of the way city so I think things happen more in those types of places.”
Inquiries regarding the future of both House seats were referred to Missouri Democrat Chair Roy Temple, who did not return calls or emails.
The alleged incident is the latest in a series of sex scandals that has plagued the Missouri House in recent years. It is also occurring at a time during a presidential campaign that has focused attention on the proper relations between men and women.
In 2009, the Speaker of the House at the time resigned after being arrested for sexual assault and one of his colleagues was arrested for sexual assaulting the 14-year-old daughter of a legislative assistant he was dating. That representative was found not guilty. In 2015, two state representatives, including a different Speaker of the House, resigned after being accused of sending inappropriate text messages and sexually harassing interns. In 2016, another representative resigned after admitting to an affair.