Government & Politics

Missouri state lawmaker accuses colleague of sexual harassment

Missouri state Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal accused a legislative colleague of touching her inappropriately shortly after the annual State of the Judiciary address Tuesday morning in the Missouri House.
Missouri state Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal accused a legislative colleague of touching her inappropriately shortly after the annual State of the Judiciary address Tuesday morning in the Missouri House. The Associated Press AP

A Democratic state senator from University City is accusing a legislative colleague of touching her inappropriately shortly after the annual State of the Judiciary address Tuesday morning in the Missouri House.

Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal discussed the allegations during Senate debate of a right to work bill, saying Democratic state Rep. Josh Peters grabbed her by the arms, called her “boo,” and later called her a “bitch.” The Senate speech followed a tweet earlier in the day in which she said, “Rep. Josh Peters, you do not have a right to touch me, nor call me ‘Boo.’ We don’t have a relationship where you get to put your hands on me.”

Peters, a St. Louis Democrat, released a statement flatly denying the accusations.

“It saddens and angers me that a member of the state Senate would make a false accusation against me to try to grab attention and headlines,” Peters said. “Sen. Maria Chappelle Nadal is known for being mentally unstable as demonstrated time and time again by her own words and actions.”

Chappelle-Nadal responded on Twitter, saying: “Instead of taking responsibility for his actions, Peters has chosen to re-victimize me by saying I was mentally unstable. Standard old line.”

This isn’t the first time Chappelle-Nadal and Peters have publicly quarreled. In the past two Democratic primaries, Peters has faced opposition from candidates supported by Chappelle-Nadal. And Peters is a former employee of U.S. Rep. Lacy Clay, whom Chappelle-Nadal ran against last year for a St. Louis-based congressional seat.

These types of accusations are also not new to Jefferson City. Just a few months ago, Democratic state Rep. Cora Faith Walker of Ferguson accused Democratic state Rep. Steve Roberts of drugging and sexually assaulting her.

Roberts, of St. Louis, denied the accusations, saying he and Walker had a consensual relationship. After local prosecutors declined to press criminal charges, he sued Walker for defamation, malicious prosecution and inflicting emotional distress.

Walker filed a countersuit for battery and infliction of emotional distress.

In 2015, two lawmakers were forced to resign over inappropriate conduct with interns. Shortly after the start of the 2016 legislative session, a lobbyist was briefly banned from the Missouri Capitol over allegations that he sexually harassed legislative interns. He was allowed to return as long as he notified Capitol police 24 hours in advance.

Jason Hancock: 573-634-3565, @J_Hancock

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