Government & Politics

Incoming Missouri legislator faces rape accusation from colleague

A woman set to begin her first term in the Missouri House of Representatives next year has accused one of her future legislative colleagues of rape, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported early Saturday morning.

Cora Faith Walker, of Ferguson, emerged victorious from a Democratic primary in August and will run unopposed this November. In a letter to House Speaker Todd Richardson, House Minority Leader Jake Hummel and House Assistant Minority Leader Gail McCann Beatty, she says that she was a victim of sexual assault and that “my rapist is Steven Roberts, Jr., who hopes to be in the Capitol in January as the Representative of the 77th District.”

“You have spoken about systemic changes you hope to make toward improving the culture at the Capitol so that women can work safely,” her letter states. “I commend and support the changes you have proposed. To that end, I ask that you do everything in your power to prevent Mr. Roberts from perpetrating 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.”

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She says she filed a police report earlier this week.

Roberts, a Democrat who is running unopposed this November, could not be reached for comment Saturday morning. But his attorney told the Post-Dispatch that whatever occurred between Walker and his client “was completely consensual.”

Walker believes she may have been drugged by Roberts at his apartment while meeting to discuss the upcoming legislative session. Roberts was investigated last year, but was never charged, for second-degree sodomy involving a female college student. He denied all allegations.

Richardson, a Poplar Bluff Republican, took over as House speaker last May after the resignation of John Diehl, who left office after The Star revealed his sexually charged relationship with a 19-year-old House intern. Two months later, Sen. Paul LeVota of Independence resigned over allegations of sexual harassment by two former interns. And dozens of women — including former and current lawmakers, staff, interns and lobbyists — told The Star last summer that sexual harassment was commonplace in the Missouri Capitol.

Since then, Richardson pushed for the House to revamp its sexual harassment and intern policies, and made ethics reform legislation his top priority. And he’s vowed to improve the culture of the Capitol after the series of scandals.

In a statement released Saturday afternoon, Richardson acknowledged recieving the letter from Walker and called the allegations “extremely serious and disturbing.”

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“The kind of conduct alleged cannot be tolerated in our state and will not be tolerated in the House of Representatives,” Richardson said. “While the House has no jurisdiction over non-members, we will monitor the criminal investigation closely and continue to have a zero tolerance policy for sexual assault, misconduct and harassment.”

Hummel, the House Democratic leader, also released a statement Saturday morning.

“It is vitally important for the criminal justice system to diligently pursue this matter to bring it to a just resolution,” he said. “As the situation develops in the coming weeks, the accused must determine whether attempting to serve in the Missouri House of Representatives under these circumstances is in the best interests of himself, his family and his constituents.”

He followed up on that statement later in the day Saturday, adding: “Cora Faith Walker has shown great courage in publicly seeking justice for the assault against her.”

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