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S Carolina lawmaker found not guilty of assault on colleague

October 2, 2018

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — A lawmaker was found not guilty Tuesday of assault in a confrontation last year with a Democratic colleague at the South Carolina Statehouse.

A six-person jury in Richland County Magistrate Court deliberated about 15 minutes before finding Rep. Jerry Govan not guilty of misdemeanor third-degree assault against Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter.

Both Democratic lawmakers have been at the Statehouse for more than two decades and serve Orangeburg County.

The dispute happened in May 2017 in a small hallway during an argument over a school consolidation bill.

Cobb-Hunter testified that Govan grabbed her arm and twisted her wrist, according to media reports. She also called witnesses who said her wrist was red and irritated after the confrontation.

Govan testified he acted defensively after Cobb-Hunter pushed several sheets of paper in his face and his version of events was supported by Rep. Greg Duckworth. The Republican from North Myrtle Beach was the only witness to see the confrontation and said Govan appeared to be knocking Cobb-Hunter’s hand away after she shoved her papers into his face.

An investigation by House Speaker Jay Lucas, R-Hartsville, found both lawmakers equally at fault. Richland County deputies charged Govan after Cobb-Hunter asked Sheriff Leon Lott to look into the case.

Cobb-Hunter said she felt it was important to be persistent. “My goal was accomplished. I had my day in court,” she said.

Govan said he was glad the jury helped him restore his honor and good name. “The truth has finally come out. Now is the time to move forward,” he said.

Both lawmakers say they can set aside the incident and work together in the House.

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