May 5, 2012

Legislators' relationship subject of police probe

The romance that turned toxic between two Democratic state representatives prompted intervention by legislative leaders, lawmakers and Capitol Police.

By Steve Mistler
Staff Writer

Maine State Police confirmed Friday that they are investigating allegations that prompted state Rep. Erin Herbig, D-Belfast, to seek a protection order against her former boyfriend, Rep. Alex Cornell du Houx, D-Brunswick.

Maine Department of Public Safety spokesman Stephen McCausland said detectives several weeks ago began reviewing claims by Herbig that Cornell du Houx harassed, stalked and threatened her.

Meanwhile, a complicated picture continues to emerge about a romantic relationship that turned toxic, prompting intervention by legislative leaders, lawmakers and Capitol Police, and leading Herbig to secure a temporary protection-from-abuse order Monday from a Belfast District Court judge.

The state police investigation may well determine if Cornell du Houx will face criminal charges. McCausland refused to provide many details or identify which allegations police were investigating.

Jeff Hamm, Cornell du Houx's attorney, said Friday that his client has a very different version of the events Herbig laid out in a 17-page complaint.

"He is confident that if he gets the opportunity to tell his version of events, he will clear his name," Hamm said.

A judge will rule at a hearing on May 14 whether to extend the protection order.

Speaker of the House Robert Nutting, R-Oakland, said Friday in a written statement that he hopes a ruling to extend the order outlines how the Legislature can comply after lawmakers reconvene at the State House on May 15.

Nutting's statement did not address the potential censure of Cornell du Houx or whether he would convene the House Ethics Committee to pursue other disciplinary action.

The investigation and possible court case has legislative leaders -- some of whom may be subpoenaed to testify -- treading cautiously.

Jodi Quintero, a spokeswoman for Rep. Emily Cain, D-Orono, reiterated Friday that she and other lawmakers acted quickly to defuse a situation that escalated during the final days of the session.

Capitol Police Chief Russell Gauvin said legislative leaders first notified his department in early March. Gauvin said he met with Herbig in early April, at which time she expressed concern about Cornell du Houx's behavior.

Gauvin said he advised Herbig about stalking laws and seeking a protection order, which Herbig declined to pursue.

"I think she was hoping it wouldn't get to that level," Gauvin said.

Gauvin said a protection plan was designed to keep the two separated. He said Cornell du Houx complied with the plan and often spent his days in the legislative council chamber. He entered the House chamber only during roll call votes.

Meanwhile, it's unclear the extent to which other lawmakers were aware of the situation. Herbig, who served on the Labor Committee, alleged in the complaint that Cornell du Houx once stood outside of the committee door, staring at her through the glass.

Two members of the committee, Rep. Timothy Driscoll, D-Westbrook, and Chairman Sen. Chris Rector, R-Thomaston, said Friday they never witnessed Cornell du Houx doing that. Several other committee members could not be reached for comment.

Driscoll said he believed something was taking place between Herbig and Cornell du Houx, but he was not aware of any specifics.

Herbig's allegations include claims that Cornell du Houx harassed her, took photos and videos of her while she was sleeping and threatened to ruin her reputation if she made their dispute public.

Herbig said in the complaint that Cornell du Houx, a former Marine who served in Fallujah during some of the Iraq war's most intense violence, threatened to commit suicide and to use his "military training tactics" on her after she ended the relationship earlier this year.

Herbig said in the court document that she and Cornell du Houx began their romantic relationship in "late 2011 through early 2012."

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