Court Upholds Congressman’s Sex Charge Conviction
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) _ U.S. Rep. Donald Lukens’ conviction on a charge he had sex with a teen-age girl was upheld Tuesday by a state appeals court.
The 59-year-old Republican was convicted May 26, 1989, of a misdemeanor charge of contributing to the unruliness of a minor. He was accused of paying a girl to have sex with him at his Columbus apartment in November 1988 when she was 16.
Lukens was sentenced to six months in jail and fined $500.
The congressman has 30 days to appeal to the Ohio Supreme Court and will remain free on bond during that time, said an attorney for Lukens, Thomas Tyack.
Lukens spoke with Tyack and other attorneys by telephone from Washington to discuss the case, said Lukens aide Joe Bukovac.
″In the decision passed down there is a determination of errors made by the judge in the courtroom on several issues,″ Bukovac said. ″At this point, there are a concensus of Lukens’ legal advisers leaning toward further appeal.″
A three-judge panel of the 10th Ohio District Court of Appeals rejected arguments by Lukens’ attorneys that Franklin County Domestic Relations Judge Ronald Solove erred by barring testimony about the girl’s record of juvenile offenses.
Lukens’ attorneys also contended that Solove’s definition of an unruly child differed from the definition in Lukens’ indictment.
In addition, they said the judge improperly overruled defense motions for a mistrial after prosecutors tried to use inadmissible testimony of sex between Ms. Coffman and Lukens in 1985. They further said the court abused its discretion in sentencing Lukens.
The appeals judges rejected all the arguments.
″I get frustrated in cases of this nature to be told yes, there were errors committed but it doesn’t matter,″ Tyack said.
Tyack said the evidence about the girl’s past was necessary to establish she already was unruly and to challenge her credibility.
But the appeals court said Tyack failed to show the records were relevant.
Lukens lost his bid for a third consecutive term in the 8th Congressional District GOP primary in May.
A week before the election, he publicly apologized for what he called ″a dumb mistake″ and asked voters to forgive him. But he maintained he was innocent of the charge.
Allegations that Lukens had sex with the girl surfaced in early 1989. Shortly afterward, a Columbus television station broadcast a videotape of a November 1988 meeting between Lukens and the girl’s mother, Anna Coffman, who confronted Lukens about the relationship. Lukens did not know the meeting at a local fast-food restaurant was being taped by a TV crew.
On the tape, Lukens offered to find Mrs. Coffman a government job after she accused him of ″messing around″ with her daughter.
Lukens served two terms in Congress, from 1967 to 1970, and then made an unsuccessful attempt to gain the GOP gubernatorial nomination in Ohio. After 15 years in the Ohio Senate, he was returned to Congress by voters in 1986. He was re-elected in 1988.