Luzerne lawmaker gets protection order against Rep. Nick Miccarelli
The court order came as the legislator, Rep. Tarah Toohil, publicly disclosed for the first time that she was one of two women who last month leveled physical or sexual misconduct allegations against Miccarelli in a confidential complaint to House Republican lawyers.
HARRISBURG — A Republican state lawmaker from Luzerne County on Friday obtained a restraining order against State Rep. Nick Miccarelli, asserting that he could be a danger to her, himself, or others.
"He has threatened to kill me and kill himself before," Rep. Tarah Toohil wrote in her application.
The court order came as Toohil publicly disclosed for the first time that she was one of the two women who last month leveled physical or sexual misconduct allegations against Miccarelli in a confidential complaint to House lawyers. In it, Toohil accused the five-term Delaware County legislator of brandishing a gun and threatening to kill them both when they dated in 2012.
"There were terrible moments that were nonconsensual at the hands of Rep. Miccarelli," Toohil said in a statement Friday to the Inquirer and Daily News and the Caucus. "And if I — as a lawyer and a lawmaker — could be this afraid of that individual, then I can only imagine how the other victims feel, which is why I am coming out publicly."
Miccarelli, a GOP lawmaker from Ridley Park, vigorously denied what he called "outrageous and baseless allegations," and contended the application for a court-sanctioned protection order was part of an ongoing campaign to smear his reputation.
"This stunt provides further evidence that political forces beyond Toohil and Nick's other female accuser are pulling out all the stops to destroy Nick's good name and end his political career," said a statement released by his spokesman.
The filing of the order, signed by Luzerne County Judge Michael Vough, was first reported late Friday by the Wilkes-Barre Citizens' Voice. A copy was obtained by the Inquirer and Daily News and the Caucus, a publication of LNP Media Group in Lancaster.
According to Toohil's lawyer, Terry Mutchler, the lawmaker sought the order because the House is set to reconvene on Monday and Toohil is fearful of returning to the Capitol when Miccarelli is there. The lawyer said Toohil told her she decided to publicly come forward because "as a public official, I believe that I have a duty to step forward to protect other women."
The allegations that Toohil and the second woman leveled in their Feb. 8 complaint — first reported last month by the Inquirer and Daily News and the Caucus — are under review by the Dauphin County District Attorney's Office and House GOP lawyers.
In that complaint, Toohil contended that Miccarelli kicked, pinched, or hit her when they dated, including at legislative events they attended. And she described him wielding a gun during an argument while driving at high speed. The second woman, a private consultant who has not made her name public, accused Miccarelli of forcing her to have sex after they stopped dating in 2014.
The women decided to file their complaint after Miccarelli posted comments on Facebook related to the #MeToo movement, according to Mutchler. They asked House lawyers to investigate and take action against him. Even as that inquiry continues, House Republican leaders have called on Miccarelli to step down.
Toohil, a 38-year-old from Butler Township, has been a legislator since 2011. Her complaint said she stopped dating Miccarelli after the gun incident in 2012.
"It has taken me years and years to identify that I, myself, was a victim of this violence," she said in her statement. "This does not define me. It something that happened to me."
Miccarelli, 35, a veteran of the Iraq War and a member of the National Guard, has denied any wrongdoing and called the women's accusations "one thousand percent lies." He also has pledged to run for reelection.
The statement Friday, released by spokesman Frank Keel, said it was "shameful" that Toohil sought the court order without giving him notice or a chance to be heard.
"Romantic relationships often end, and Nick ended his relationship with Ms. Toohil years ago. Ending a relationship, however, does not permit the jilted partner [to destroy] the other person's life," it read. "The allegations Toohil trumpeted to secure the PFA supposedly occurred six long years ago, yet she never decided to seek any legal relief until now? She knew Nick was recently married. It's unconscionable that Toohil would abuse the PFA process in this way at this time, knowing the shame and embarrassment it would bring to Nick and his new family."
Toohil's relationship with Miccarelli has once before come under scrutiny.
In 2013, the Inquirer reported that then-House leaders asked the state police to investigate anonymous videos that disparaged Toohil. One was sent by email to every member of the House and contained a picture of Toohil when she was younger. In the photo, she is seated at a table with a smoking device and what appears to be marijuana.
Soon after, a Democrat trying to unseat Toohil that year briefly ran a campaign ad that featured a photo of Toohil and a man atop a camel during a trip to Israel. In the photo, the man had his arms wrapped around her waist.
The man was Miccarelli, and the two were in Israel for an educational trip sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia. Her hometown newspapers pounced on the trip, as well as her relationship with Miccarelli.
At the time, state police officials questioned at least a half-dozen people – including legislators – with several being asked about Miccarelli's relationship with Toohil and how it ended.
Miccarelli declined repeatedly to discuss that investigation, which ended without any charges being filed.
Toohil also declined comment about the probe. At the time, House leaders relocated her office to a different part of the Capitol because she told them she felt unsafe.
After the House lawyers began their inquiry last month, Miccarelli was stripped of his security privileges at the Capitol, meaning he is no longer permitted to park his car in a garage reserved for lawmakers and must enter the building through manned security stations at doors used by members of the general public.