May 11, 2012

Report cleared legislator-veteran of PTSD

The family of Rep. Alex Cornell du Houx, accused of stalking another lawmaker, makes his psychologist's analysis public.

By Steve Mistler smistler@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

AUGUSTA - The family of state Rep. Alex Cornell du Houx, D-Brunswick, who is accused of stalking and threatening a female lawmaker, has released a psychologist's report that says the military veteran is not suffering from psychological symptoms or syndromes related to combat stress.

Alex Cornell du Houx

VIEW THE EVALUATION

Ramona Cornell du Houx, mother of Rep. Alex Cornell du Houx, D-Brunswick, released this counselor's report to The Portland Press Herald on the condition that it be published in its entirety. She said the family wanted the report released to rebut contentions that he suffers from post-traumatic stress syndrome.

Psychologist's clinical evaluation of du Houx

Ramona du Houx, Cornell du Houx's mother, gave the report to The Portland Press Herald, saying the family wanted to dispel allegations by Rep. Erin Herbig, D-Belfast, the Brunswick lawmaker's former girlfriend, and any perception that the former Marine was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Her daughter, Rebecca Cornell du Houx, released the report to the Forecaster group of weekly newspapers.

Rebecca Cornell du Houx, a mental health case manager in the Maine Army National Guard, could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Last week, Herbig secured a temporary protection-from-abuse order against Alex Cornell du Houx. He claims that he and Herbig were engaged to be married and that they lived together. Herbig's attorney recently denied that Herbig and Cornell du Houx lived together.

Herbig's complaint alleges a series of threatening actions, including that Cornell du Houx, who served in Iraq, threatened to use "military training tactics" on her after the couple broke up earlier this year. Herbig did not use the term "post-traumatic stress disorder" in her complaint.

Herbig's allegations are being investigated by Maine State Police. Spokesman Steve McCausland said last week that the probe began after investigators were notified by the Capitol Police, a unit that works within the state Department of Public Safety.

Herbig approached Capitol Police in early April about concerns she had with Cornell du Houx's behavior. She did not seek a protection order until last week.

McCausland would not say which of Herbig's allegations are being investigated.

Ramona du Houx said neither her son nor his attorney, Jeff Hamm, knew that the psychologist's report was being released. She said the protection order gave only Herbig's side of the story.

Citing advice from his attorney, Alex Cornell du Houx has declined to respond to Herbig's allegations, except to say that many of her claims are false. His family, meanwhile, has attempted to clear his name in the court of public opinion.

Hamm acknowledged that he would not have advised his client to release the report. However, he said, it helped dispel the stigma of post-traumatic stress disorder that combat veterans often face.

He said Cornell du Houx sought the evaluation after Herbig expressed concerns to a former employer that he was suffering from PTSD.

The evaluation was done by Margo Bonner Thurston, a psychologist in Belfast. She did not respond to requests for comment Thursday.

The evaluation is confidential, but Thurston wrote that Alex Cornell du Houx could release it at his discretion. His mother said Thursday that Cornell du Houx distributed it to several people, including House Minority Leader Emily Cain, D-Orono, earlier this year.

It's unclear if Cornell du Houx authorized releasing the evaluation to the media. His mother said he never gave her or his sister permission to release it.

According to the psychologist's summary, Cornell du Houx was frustrated and distressed about his relationship with Herbig after "a serious breach of trust" between them.

According to Thurston's assessment, Cornell du Houx did not meet the clinical definition of post-traumatic stress disorder and presented himself as an "intelligent, well groomed, well mannered, matter of fact, logical, extraordinarily busy and successful young man."

Thurston wrote that the therapy sessions addressed relationship issues "to reduce stress, improve interpersonal communication so that he may restore trust within his relationship with his girlfriend, and learn how he might prevent relationship problems in the future."

Thurston wrote that Cornell du Houx admitted he was at times "clueless" about his relationship with Herbig and "he has appeared to be naive and superficial in his understanding of intimate interpersonal dynamics."

Thurston wrote that her opinions were developed after 11 individual sessions with Cornell du Houx and one joint session with him and Herbig. All of the sessions appear to have taken place over a recent three-month period.

Thurston noted that Herbig initially believed Cornell du Houx suffered from PTSD.

The summary is dated Feb. 24. A fax cover sheet shows that the evaluation was sent to an Illinois phone number on Feb. 28.

According to Ramona du Houx, her son was speaking at an event in Illinois for the Truman National Security Project on Feb. 28. He was employed by the organization for about 3½ years.

The mother claimed that Herbig expressed concerns to Alex Cornell du Houx's boss about her ex-boyfriend's behavior. The mother said her son presented the evaluation to his boss, Michael Moschella, in an effort to ease misgivings he may have had about employing the combat veteran.

Herbig is listed as a Truman Project partner on the organization's website.

Dave Solimini, a spokesman for the Truman National Security Project, confirmed that Cornell du Houx no longer works for the organization, but refused to say when he left or whether he was asked to resign. Solimini said Herbig is not employed by the organization but remains a dues-paying member.

Ramona du Houx said her son resigned to focus on his re-election campaign. She acknowledged that the situation with Herbig factored into the decision.

Chris MacLean, Herbig's attorney, said Thursday that the evaluation had no effect on his client's case, which he said centers on Cornell du Houx's "outrageous conduct" that included taking photos and videos of Herbig while she slept and stalking and threatening her.

MacLean, who said he has been involved with hundreds of protection-from-abuse cases, claimed that Cornell du Houx's conduct was consistent with abusers who threaten to embarrass and humiliate their victims to prevent them from going public.

"It's a common and sad theme," he said, adding that he has written evidence that Cornell du Houx threatened to humiliate Herbig. He also said he is investigating whether Cornell du Houx or others were using comments on newspaper websites to impugn Herbig's reputation.

Several such comments have appeared with a story in the Bowdoin Orient, the student newspaper at Bowdoin College, Cornell du Houx's alma mater. Some of the comments have been removed by the site's administrator.

A hearing on whether to extend the temporary protection order is scheduled for Monday. MacLean said he and Hamm are discussing the case to determine whether the two sides could come to an agreement.

Hamm said he does not want the story to continue being litigated in the press and remains hopeful that both parties can reach an agreement by Monday.

State House Writer Steve Mistler can be contacted at 791-6345 or at:

smistler@mainetoday.com

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