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Eye On Boise

In court, new details emerge about downfall of once-rising GOP star in Senate

During former Sen. John McGee's sentencing hearing today, new details emerged on the sexual harassment allegations that led to McGee's resignation from the Idaho Senate. Asked what happened, McGee told 4th District Magistrate Judge James Cawthon, “Your honor, on Feb. 7, I acted inappropriately and I used language that I should not have used, and I conducted myself in a way, your honor, that was offensive, and I'm guilty of this offense.” The charge against McGee was disturbing the peace of a person.

But Ada County deputy prosecutor Jean Fisher said it went beyond that. The victim was a 25-year-old woman who worked for the Senate in 2011, then returned for the 2012 session. “The job for her, as you can imagine, was very exciting, a unique opportunity,” Fisher said. “It was a great honor for her.” But when the woman returned for the 2012 session, she found McGee, who in the interim had been convicted of DUI in a bizarre Father's Day incident, “mercurial,” subject to “mood swings,” and “acting sexually inappropriately around her.” At one point, Fisher told the court, McGee “called her into his office, locked the door and demanded that she engage in graphic sexual conduct.” The woman escaped. She went home that day and told her mother.

“Co-workers noted her declining demeanor and asked what was wrong,” Fisher said. The victim didn't want to report McGee. “She believed that her job was on the line,” Fisher said. “She and her friend attempted to isolate the victim from Sen. McGee,” in part by moving other workers into the workplace. But, Fisher said, “The senator isolated her again and repeated the barrage of disturbing and offensive sexual innuendo.” At that point, the friend reported the situation to a supervisor, and an investigation was launched, leading eventually to a criminal charge against McGee of misdemeanor disturbing the peace.

Fisher said the victim just wants the whole thing over. “She is so ready to move on and be done with this process that has been a horrible disruption in her life,” she told the court.

Scott McKay, attorney for McGee, said his client disputes some of Fisher's allegations. “He admits that on Feb. 7 he committed the crime of disturbing the peace,” McKay told the court.

McGee made this statement to the court: “Your honor, I accept responsibility for my actions.” Then he paused before continuing. “Serving in the Idaho Senate has been a great privilege, but with that privilege comes responsibility, and over the last year I did not live up to that privilege. And I'm sorry for that. I apologize.”

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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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