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Former Michigan House speaker denies sexual assault allegations, admits affair

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Former Michigan House speaker Lee Chatfield denies sexual assault allegations in a statement issued by his lawyer on Friday.

Former Michigan House Speaker Lee Chatfield, in a statement issued by his attorney Friday, denied accusations of sexual assault allegedly contained in a complaint under review by Michigan State Police. Chatfield acknowledged an affair with the woman alleging the assault.

Multiple news outlets have reported that the complaint says the alleged assaults began when the woman was a minor. The statement from Chatfield, released by his lawyer, Mary Chartier, with Okemos-based law firm Chartier & Nyamfukudza, said that's not the case:

Mr. Chatfield is innocent of the false rape claims made against him. He had affairs while he was married, including a sexual relationship with the woman who is now claiming she was raped. Their affair lasted for years, but they were both consenting adults.  Mr. Chatfield deeply regrets the decisions he has made. It has caused great pain to his wife and family, and they are working through this together. But he did not assault this woman in any manner during their years-long adult relationship. He intends to vigorously fight these false claims.

James White, the attorney representing Chatfield's accuser, did not immediately return a call Friday evening.

White told the Detroit Free Press that Chatfield sexually abused his client starting about 11 years ago, when she was a minor, and continued into her adulthood. The alleged abuse started when the complainant attended a school and church in Northern Michigan where Chatfield was working, White told the Free Press.

Michigan Radio has not been able to verify the name or age of the complainant. Bridge Michigan reports that she is 26-year-old Rebekah Chatfield, the sister-in-law of the former House speaker.

Lee Chatfield, a 33-year-old Republican, led the state house in 2019 and 2020, representing a district in Northern Michigan. State police said investigators in that area were reviewing the complaint against the former lawmaker.

Chatfield left office in 2020 after being term-limited. Afterwards, he briefly worked as CEO of a Kalamazoo-area economic development corporation, but resigned less than a month after taking the job over criticisms of his record on LGBTQ civil rights issues while in office.

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