LANSING, Mich. – A Michigan lawmaker denied that he threatened or harmed a fellow legislator with whom he had a romantic relationship, dismissing her claims Thursday as a “politically motivated character assassination.”
Third-term Rep. Steve Marino, a Republican, issued a statement a day after second-term Democratic Rep. Mari Manoogian said his removal from two committees stemmed from their “volatile” relationship. She said she was taking steps to ensure her safety following domestic abuse, including threats of public shaming.
The 29-year-old Manoogian, of Birmingham, did not specify what Marino allegedly did, nor whether the alleged threats and intimidation were physical, verbal or written.
Marino, a 32-year-old from Macomb County's Harrison Township, said their relationship ended “well over” a year ago. They served together on the House Commerce and Tourism Committee. He chaired the panel until this week, when he was removed by Republican House Speaker Jason Wentworth, who said he prioritizes lawmakers' safety and acted immediately once aware of the situation. State police are investigating.
“I regret the fact that I went along with her request to not disclose the prior relationship to the Speaker,” Marino said. "However, I will be clear: the insinuations made are nothing more than politically motivated character assassination that I am confident will conclude as a waste of the public’s time. I look forward to fulfilling my duties and maintaining the trust I’ve worked so hard to build during my seven years in public office.”
His lawyer, Mike Rataj — who specializes in criminal defense — said Manoogian got “bad advice” to go public and it will “backfire.”
“It's unfortunate that my client is being excoriated over vague allegations. There has been no due process whatsoever," he said.
Several female legislators have publicly supported Manoogian, the first Armenian American woman to serve in the state House.
“Love and support to you my friend — big admiration for your strength,” tweeted Rep. Angela Witwer, a Democrat from Eaton County's Delta Township.
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