Pennsylvania lawmaker facing sex assault claim quits House
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — A western Pennsylvania state lawmaker resigned Monday, two months after being stripped of a chairmanship over allegations he had sex with a woman against her will while she was blacked out.
Republican state Rep. Brian Ellis, who has not been charged with any crime, wrote in a letter to the House speaker that he was quitting immediately.
The announcement comes about a week after the woman, whose work involves the General Assembly, filed a complaint about Ellis to the House that said she was cooperating with law enforcement.
She said that in October 2015, she had been out at a piano bar with a friend and then at a fundraising event for a politician before blacking out.
“I woke up in pain, injured and naked the next morning in the bed of Representative Ellis,” the woman said.
Ellis told her they had sex, and she responded she would never have done that, she wrote in the memo to a House Republican lawyer. “He smugly replied, ‘I always knew we would,’” she wrote. She said she has no memory of having sex with Ellis.
A call seeking comment was made to Ellis’ cellphone Monday but no message could be left. He has kept a very low profile in recent weeks, missing a string of voting sessions. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported last week that his lawyers called the allegations “just plain false.” Messages were also left for attorneys with the law firm in that article.
The woman’s lawyer, Christine Wechsler, said Monday she interprets Ellis’ resignation as “an acknowledgement of her credibility and her courage and willingness to come forward.”
Ellis’ letter to Republican House Speaker Mike Turzai said his resignation decision was in the best interests of his family, district residents and his own health. He said representing a Butler County district was his highest professional honor.
The Butler Eagle reported last week that Ellis’ wife of 20 years recently filed for divorce.
House Republican leaders removed Ellis as chairman of the Consumer Affairs Committee in January and urged him to resign.
The state’s victim advocate, Jennifer Storm, who has been working with the unidentified woman, said in January the woman had rebuffed advances by Ellis “multiple times before. Not just that night.”
Storm issued a statement on behalf of the woman Monday that said they were “hopeful today that a new day of transparency and accountability is upon us. We truly hope this sends a message to other survivors who we know exist, you can break your silence, you can come forward and you will be supported.”
House Republicans have said prosecutors are looking into the allegations, but Dauphin County District Attorney Fran Chardo has declined to confirm an investigation.
On Monday, Chardo said only that Ellis’ resignation was outside his office’s purview.