HARRISBURG — Though House Republican leaders have not sanctioned Rep. Nick Miccarelli amid accusations that he physically or sexually abused two women, caucus leaders on Thursday said they will strip him of his committee assignments and relocate his desk on the House floor so that he sits farther from one of his accusers.
GOP leaders announced the actions in a memo circulated Thursday morning to all House members, in which they said that an internal investigation had found that Miccarelli, a Delaware County Republican, had once again violated the chamber's policy prohibiting retaliation against anyone who reports alleged sexual harassment.
Miccarelli, it said, publicly shared the name of one of his accusers on his Facebook page despite her request to keep her name confidential, and kept that posting up for months. House lawyers who conducted the inquiry also said he shared suggestive emails and photographs of the accuser "without a valid purpose."
Thursday's memo outlined the latest moves to punish the Delaware County Republican since party leaders called for his resignation in March, weeks after the Inquirer and Daily News and the Caucus first detailed the allegations. Miccarelli has strongly denied the accusations and declined to step down, announcing instead that he is forgoing a reelection run and will remain in office until his term ends this year.
Miccarelli spokesman Frank Keel has called the women "jilted lovers" and said they are bent on destroying him by lying about his behavior.
In a statement Thursday, Keel said Miccarelli shared texts with, and "images" of, one of his accusers with two members of the news media to provide what he called "essential context" on his relationship with her. Keel said Miccarelli provided them with the understanding that they would not be disseminated.
"Nick has the right to rebut false accusations made against him, as does every American citizen," said Keel. "The evidence was provided solely to defend Nick; not to harass, embarrass, annoy or intimidate the anonymous complainant," Keel wrote.
The two women — one a Republican state lawmaker, the other a GOP political consultant — filed a confidential complaint with the House in February. The lawmaker, Rep. Tarah Toohil, alleged Miccarelli kicked and pinched her — and at one point, threatened to kill himself and her with a gun — when the two dated in 2012. The consultant, who has asked that her name not be publicly revealed, accused Miccarelli of sexually assaulting her after the two ended a relationship in 2014.
An internal investigation by the House found the women credible.
The political consultant on Thursday put it this way: "This man raped me and then defamed me publicly in the professional community I make my living in. Anything short of his expulsion or immediate resignation from the legislature is not justice."
Toohil declined to comment.
Shortly after filing the complaint with the House in February, a judge granted Toohil a three-year restraining order against Miccarelli, setting up a nationally unprecedented situation. In the Pennsylvania statehouse, she was assigned a bodyguard, who accompanies her to closed-door meetings in which she and Miccarelli are both present, as well as to the House floor, where their seats were separated by about 35 feet.
House leadership has allowed the two to continue serving together on a committee.
Earlier this month, a New York Times story described Miccarelli as "apparently being shielded by his party leadership," while House GOP leaders have done nothing to force Miccarelli's resignation.
They have said there is no precedent in Pennsylvania to expel a lawmaker who has not been convicted of a crime. They noted they have turned over the results of their internal inquiry to Dauphin County District Attorney Fran Chardo's office.
"This is in the hands of law enforcement," said House GOP spokesman Steve Miskin. He said the House's latest findings on retaliation against the political consultant were also turned over to Chardo's office.
Chardo, referring to his investigation, said, "It is not complete yet. We will indicate when it is complete."
The findings, according to a copy obtained by the Caucus and the Inquirer and Daily News, reference the state criminal code section commonly called the"revenge porn" law. Passed in 2014, the law makes it a crime to disseminate sexually explicit images if the intent is to harass or alarm a former or current sexual partner.
Other states have acted to oust lawmakers in harassment cases. In Colorado, for instance, a Democratic legislator was expelled earlier this year after five women filed complaints with the state House accusing him of sexual harassment, according to the Denver Post. Two accused Minnesota lawmakers, one from each party, resigned late last year.
In all, 16 state lawmakers in a dozen states have resigned or been expelled in the aftermath of women coming forward in the seven months since the #MeToo movement began, according to a tally by Stateline, a news initiative of the Pew Charitable Trusts.