Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter has retained a lawyer in connection with her confrontation with Rep. Jerry Govan.
Cobb-Hunter said her attorney will investigate the confrontation and “has requested statements from witnesses.” She would not provide the name of her attorney, saying it’s too early in the process and she wants to keep things confidential.
She said it’s not been determined whether law enforcement will be involved.
On May 11, the two Orangeburg Democrats got into a heated dispute at the Statehouse regarding a bill consolidating the county’s three school districts into one.
Cobb-Hunter claims that during the dispute, “I was attacked and assaulted.”
She said Govan was “literally twisting my arms and my wrist and pushing me.”
Govan did not provide comment for this story. Govan has insisted to The Associated Press that he didn't initiate the physical contact, but would not give specifics.
House Speaker Jay Lucas, R-Darlington, has said neither lawmaker would be punished for the confrontation. He urged them to keep future engagements civil and professional.
Cobb-Hunter said she “was very disappointed in the speaker’s letter where he seemed to assign equal blame.”
“I really didn’t appreciate the patronizing tone of the speaker’s letter,” she added. “I didn’t need the speaker’s letter to tell me to be civil.”
Lucas’ letter cited a lack of clear evidence about who initiated the physical contact.
“If clearer evidence of who initiated the physical contact existed, I can assure you both that severe consequences would result,” he said in the letter.
Lucas said the lawmakers were arguing and Govan approached Cobb-Hunter who, at first, had been backing away from him.
Cobb-Hunter’s arm was “extended away from her body and in close proximity to Rep. Govan,” Lucas said.
Lucas added that the two made “mutual physical contact with one another as a result of the confrontation.”
Cobb-Hunter said she was defending herself by sticking her arm out. As a result of the confrontation, she had to use ice packs on her wrist the next two days.
“After being restrained by House security, (he was) still making an attempt to come after me,” she said of Govan.
Cobb-Hunter said, “It’s unclear to me how one can be the initial aggressor, and one can be defending themselves and it still be mutual contact.”
She said Lucas took “the easy way out” by placing both at fault.
“I was not at fault and was attacked,” she said. “I’m the one that walked around for two days with ice packs on my wrists.”
She maintains that she would not have changed how she handled herself.
Cobb-Hunter said “me not fighting back” was the appropriate action.
“We didn’t need two people making a spectacle of themselves,” she said.
Cobb-Hunter is executive director of CASA Family Systems and has worked with victims of domestic abuse for decades.
“After 40 year of working with victims of violence … I have always been sympathetic, now I’m empathetic,” she said. “I never in a million years thought something like this would happen to me.”
She said in her experience, problems arise “when a person exhibits a pattern of behavior without going checked.”
“I believe in this instance, previous acts of violence by Govan have gone unchecked,” she said.
In 2004, Govan got into a heated confrontation with then-House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Harrison, which included contact and led to both needing to be separated by staff. Govan was removed from the Judiciary Committee.
The consolidation bill has been vetoed by the governor.