A jury on Tuesday found a South Carolina legislator not guilty of assaulting a female colleague last year.
The Richland County jury deliberated 15 minutes before it returned a not-guilty verdict against State Rep. Jerry Govan, D-Orangeburg. Govan was charged with misdemeanor third-degree assault after a fellow legislator claimed he grabbed her arm and twisted her wrist during a May 2017 confrontation.
State Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, D-Orangeburg, first brought the accusations to House Speaker Jay Lucas. House investigators determined no charges were warranted. However, the Fifth Circuit Solicitor’s Office completed a separate investigation in November and Richland County deputies ultimately filed the charges.
The two had been arguing about legislation that would merge several Orangeburg County school districts at the time. During Tuesday’s trial, Govan testified her pushed Cobb-Hunter’s arm away as she shoved a cell phone and several sheets of paper into his face. Cobb-Hunter said she felt the Orangeburg legislator grab her wrist and push her back. A third legislator who witnessed the incident State Rep. Greg Duckworth, R-North Myrtle Beach, said he saw Cobb-Hunter push Govan’s head back and that Govan “blocked” her arm, according to The State newspaper.
Govan has represented Orangeburg County in the House since 1993. He unsuccessfully ran for state education superintendent in 2014, losing in the Democratic primary. He and Cobb-Hunter have often sparred on local government issues, including school consolidation and the 2015 SC State University board replacement.
Both legislators said they can look past the incident and work together in the House.