AUGUSTA — The female state lawmaker who accused her former lover and fellow legislator of stalking and threatening her withdrew her court protection order Monday, signaling a quiet end to the high-profile case.
Democratic Rep. Erin Herbig of Belfast secured a temporary protection-from-abuse order April 30 against Rep. Alex Cornell du Houx, D-Brunswick, after their romantic relationship ended in an ugly separation that eventually prompted involvement by legislative leaders and law enforcement.
The episode appears to be drawing to a close with Herbig’s withdrawal of the protection order in Belfast District Court. Her action was preceded by a confidential settlement between Herbig and Cornell du Houx. Attorneys for both parties came to the agreement late Friday in an effort to pre-empt a potentially messy court hearing Monday.
Herbig, 31, said in a written statement Monday that the agreement gave her “far more protection than would have been afforded by the court.”
Also Monday, Maine State Police announced that they had closed their investigation into Herbig’s allegations against Cornell du Houx. Steve McCausland, spokesman for the Department of Public Safety, said the 29-year-old lawmaker will not be charged.
State police began investigating some of Herbig’s allegations after she met with Capitol Police in early April. Capitol Police Chief Russell Gauvin told The Portland Press Herald that Herbig never filed a formal complaint. Nonetheless, he said, Herbig’s claims were serious enough to warrant scrutiny.
McCausland would not say which allegations investigators reviewed. He said he did not know why the investigation was closed. “The case was investigated, reviewed and the decision was made,” he said.
Paul Rucha, the assistant district attorney for Kennebec County, said he had no record of the case reaching his office.
Gauvin initially said he believed that the Kennebec County district attorney had been consulted. He said prosecutors had significant latitude in deciding not to pursue charges, including insufficient evidence.
In her handwritten court filing dated April 30, Herbig made a series of specific accusations against Cornell du Houx, including that he entered her apartment without permission, acted in a threatening way and followed her while she was driving.
She didn’t accuse him of breaking into her apartment. Cornell du Houx had said that the couple lived together. Herbig’s attorney, Chris MacLean, denied that they did.
The conflict got significant media attention after Herbig’s protection order went public. MacLean denied that he or his client tipped off the media.
Several defense attorneys interviewed by the Press Herald said protection-from-abuse cases rarely get media attention. Several attorneys said they were surprised by the level of detail in Herbig’s eight-page court filing.
Herbig, in her written statement Monday, said the media attention was unwelcome. She wrote that details of her personal life had been “distorted and maligned.”
Herbig’s marital status was one element of public speculation. Her divorce to Josh Povec was finalized in January. Belfast District Court documents show Povec filed for divorce on Aug. 9, 2011. Herbig’s complaint against du Houx says the two were in a romantic relationship “late 2011 through early 2012.”
Late last week, Cornell du Houx’s family released a psychological evaluation indicating that the combat veteran does not suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.
The document, which says Cornell du Houx has a “naive and superficial” understanding of romantic relationships, was released without his attorney’s consent.
Cornell du Houx released a short statement Monday saying he was glad that the protection order was withdrawn. He has said that he plans to complete his legislative term, but he has sought a temporary absence from this week’s legislative session.
Cornell du Houx, citing the media attention, said his absence is meant to “calm the situation.”
He would not say whether he will abandon his run for a third term. He has previously said that he is committed to staying in the race. Herbig said through her attorney that she is continuing her bid for a second term.
A spokeswoman for the Secretary of State’s Office told the Press Herald recently that it’s too late to remove candidates’ names from the June 12 primary ballot.
If either candidate withdraws before the primary, Democrats could be left without a candidate in November, according to state election law. If either candidate waited until after the primary to withdraw, their town Democratic committee would have a short period to draft a new candidate.
State House Writer Steve Mistler can be contacted at 620-7016 or at: firstname.lastname@example.org