Pennsylvania lawmaker urged to resign over sex assault claim
HARRISBURG – Pennsylvania state House Republicans on Friday stripped a member of his committee chairmanship and recommended he resign over allegations that he had sex with an incapacitated woman against her will.
Eight-term Rep. Brian Ellis should step down “to take care of his family and address the allegations” about an incident in his home near the Capitol in Harrisburg more than three years ago, House GOP leaders said in a statement.
Ellis, who represents a Butler County district in western Pennsylvania, has not responded to texts, emails and phone messages seeking comment. He has not been charged.
House Republican leaders said they were focused on the institution’s integrity, staff safety and “the best paths forward for the individual involved – the accuser and the accused, as well as their respective families. It would be in the best interest of all involved if Rep. Ellis would resign.”
A spokesman for Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf called the allegations outrageous and unacceptable and said the governor also thinks Ellis should step down.
The woman’s lawyer, Christine Wechsler, said her client believes she was drugged while having a drink with a friend and has no memory of the ensuing 12 hours. She went to a hospital the next day.
“She reported to doctors that she had no memory of the previous evening and she believed she was sexually assaulted,” Wechsler said Friday.
She said the woman is a state employee who has never worked for Ellis.
The state’s victim advocate, Jennifer Storm, who has been working with the unidentified woman, called her brave and courageous.
“The goal is to make sure that other women know what this man has done, so that nobody else gets hurt,” Storm said.
Storm said the woman had rebuffed advances by Ellis “multiple times before. Not just that night.”
House Republicans said prosecutors are looking into the allegations, although Dauphin County District Attorney Fran Chardo declined comment.
The investigation was first reported Thursday by The Philadelphia Inquirer and the Caucus newspapers.
Ellis was recently named chairman of the House Consumer Affairs Committee. House Republican leaders said he will not be assigned to any other committees, pending the outcome of the criminal investigation.
The leaders said they also have directed Capitol Police and House Security to add unspecified safety and security measures.
Last year, Republican state Rep. Nick Miccarelli declined to seek another term after a state representative accused him of being abusive. Chardo announced in December that he also closed a case involving a political consultant’s claims that Miccarelli came to her house after they broke up in 2014 and forced her to have sex, allegations he denied.
The House also paid out $250,000 to settle a sexual harassment claim against Democratic Rep. Tom Caltagirone in 2015.
And on Friday, Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa said his caucus had hired a law firm to look into a woman’s claim that she was the victim of sexual misconduct by Sen. Daylin Leach in 1991, when he was a lawyer representing her mother in a criminal matter.
Costa acted about a week after a document making allegations against Leach was distributed among the Capitol’s Senate offices. Leach, a Democrat, did not return messages but said Thursday on Facebook that he was the victim of injustice and plans a lawsuit.