Sheriff: Claims against Missouri lawmaker not credible
COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri sheriff said Friday that he didn't find credible a report that a man who is now a state lawmaker had sex with a drunken 19-year-old while on duty as a police officer in 2015.
Pike County Sheriff Stephen Korte dismissed the claims as "sour grapes" and said they were brought forward by law enforcement officials with political vendettas against Rep. Chad Perkins, a 42-year-old Republican from Bowling Green.
Frankford police Chief Josh Baker in April sent documents about the claims to the Missouri Highway Patrol, the House speaker and other law enforcement agencies. The documents include a report from a former Pike County detective who received copies of purported messages between the 19-year-old and Perkins anonymously in September 2019 that reference an interaction when she was drunk and he was on duty as a Bowling Green police officer. She also asked him for help getting alcohol and the prescription drug Adderall.
"The victim was an intoxicated young girl, the police officer on duty was a Bowling Green, Missouri police officer," the detective wrote in an August 2020 email to a U.S. Department of Justice employee. "Instead of doing his job at the city park he decided to receive a sexual favor instead."
Perkins has told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the relationship was consensual. Asked Friday by The Associated Press whether he ever had sex with the woman in question while she was drunk, Perkins said he has been advised by consultants not to answer questions. He said he never received a police call regarding her.
"Much of it is completely fabricated," Perkins said Friday about the claims. "The guy (Baker) is just disgruntled and has some personal vendettas and axes to grind."
Perkins told the Post-Dispatch that Baker was upset that Perkins didn't endorse Baker's wife in her bid for Pike County assessor last year.
Korte's handling of the allegations is under scrutiny because the detective and Baker, who both previously worked under Korte, claim the sheriff downplayed the case and told law enforcement under him not to pursue it further because Perkins was running for state representative.
"We can't prove any of this, Chad needs to win this it's important and the girl is loose," the detective claimed Korte said during a September 2019 conversation.
Korte on Friday said that's a "complete and utter lie."
The Highway Patrol now is conducting a preliminary inquiry. A spokesman said Republican House Speaker Rob Vescovo immediately referred the allegations to the House Ethics Committee, which investigates claims of misconduct against state representatives.
Korte on Friday said he spoke with Perkins after the claims were brought to his attention and that Perkins told him that the two had a "consensual short-term relationship but that he never provided her alcohol (and) they never hung out when she was visibly intoxicated."
"There was no indication that any crime had taken place," Korte said.
He said that "at some point" in the past few years he also spoke with the woman and that she confirmed the two "hooked up" but that he didn't document the conversations.
Korte said that beyond those conversations and flagging the claims to the Bowling Green police chief, he didn't take further steps to investigate.
An AP request for comment to the Bowling Green police chief was not immediately returned Friday.
Asked about concerns that his handling of the case might erode young women's trust that his department would take seriously claims of sexual assault against law enforcement officers, Korte said he could see someone who didn't know him or the community questioning it.
"I guess my question is, were you ever in a situation where you said, 'Hey look at that cute cop?'" Korte asked.
Korte also questioned whether the messages with Perkins were fabricated and questioned the credibility of the detective over what he said was a political feud with Perkins.
Baker in a police report he sent to the Highway Patrol also said a gas station clerk called him in July 2020 to report that two girls came into the store showing people messages with Perkins and the 19-year-old "indicating that he had sex with her while on duty."
Perkins officially opened a campaign account in November 2019 and was elected to the Legislature in November 2020.
His law enforcement license was inactive as of Thursday, which means he hasn't been working as a police officer recently and can't return to the job immediately.