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Michigan lawmaker faces weapons, sexual assault charges after arrest

Rep. Neil Friske on the floor of the Michigan House of Representatives, at the Michigan Capitol in Lansing on Oct. 10.  (David Guralnick)
By Kim Bellware Washington Post

A conservative state lawmaker in Michigan is facing a sexual assault investigation after he was arrested just before 3 a.m. Thursday in Lansing.

The Lansing Police Department on Friday requested felony charges of sexual assault, assault and a weapons offense against Rep. Neil Friske, a 62-year-old Republican representing parts of northern Michigan who is seeking re-election this year.

Friske did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday.

Friske had not been formally charged as of Friday afternoon. According to the office of Ingham County Prosecutor John J. Dewane (D), an investigation is ongoing into the late-night incident, which began when police responded to reports of a man with a gun and possible shots fired.

“During the course of the initial investigation, law enforcement officers learned of a possible sexual assault of an adult female and they arrested a 62-year old male, Kornelius Friske,” Dewane’s office said, using the lawmaker’s full first name.

Police arrested Friske around 2:45 a.m. Thursday and took him into custody. The block where police said Friske was arrested is where he purchased a condo in January, according to property records.

The lawmaker was released Friday.

Hours after Friske’s early-morning arrest Thursday, his campaign defended him in a statement, writing: “As many of us know, Rep Friske is always exercising his 2nd Amendment right.”

In its statement, Friske’s campaign cast the arrest as suspicious due to the forthcoming release of absentee ballots for Michigan’s Aug. 6 primary. The campaign also accused Friske’s “opponent” of having “deep-state ties” but did not specify whether it was referencing his Republican primary challenger or the Democrat vying to represent Michigan’s 107th District.

Parker Fairbairn, Friske’s Republican primary challenger, in a statement Friday said Friske deserves “the presumption of innocence until proven guilty” but called the assemblyman’s voting record “abysmal and immoral.”

“Neil deserves his time in court, and the people of the 107th deserve better than Neil,” Fairbairn said.

As a member of the conservative Michigan House Freedom Caucus, Friske has supported hard-line immigration policies and introduced legislation to curb abortion access, including an unsuccessful bill that would have banned the use of prescription pills for medication-induced abortions.

Friske’s critics in the state’s Democrat-led legislature demanded accountability for the Republican lawmaker, with State Rep. Phil Skaggs (D) saying on X that if the sexual assault allegations are true, Friske should “resign from the Michigan House immediately.”