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Former Michigan House speaker accused of sexual assault by sister-in-law

Lee Chatfield, the one-time state House of Representatives speaker, denies any criminal wrongdoing; says sex with woman, who'd eventually wed his brother, was consensual.
Speaker of the Michigan House of Representatives Lee Chatfield speaks during a campaign rally on Oct. 17, 2020 in Muskegon, Mich.
Speaker of the Michigan House of Representatives Lee Chatfield speaks during a campaign rally on Oct. 17, 2020 in Muskegon, Mich.Rey Del Rio / Getty Images file

The sister-in-law of a former, high-ranking Republican leader in Michigan accused the lawmaker of sexually assaulting her for years when she was an underaged teen, officials said Monday.

Lee Chatfield, 33, who served as speaker of the state House of Representatives in 2019 and 2020, denies any criminal wrongdoing and instead admits to extramarital — but consensual — sex with the accuser, defense attorney Mary Chartier said.

"Mr. Chatfield is innocent of the false rape claims made against him," Chartier said in statement to NBC News. "He had affairs while he was married, including a sexual relationship with the woman who is now claiming she was raped."

Chartier said this "affair lasted for years, but they were both consenting adults over 18," adding that "this woman regularly contacted Mr. Chatfield to initiate sexual encounters, and she took steps to hide the affair from others, including her husband."

 "Mr. Chatfield deeply regrets the decisions he has made. It has caused great pain to his wife and family, and they are working through this together," Chartier added.

The age of consent in Michigan is 16 and Rebekah Chatfield told Bridge Michigan that the abuse happened when she was underage.

Rebekah Chatfield, 26, is now married to the former lawmaker's younger brother Aaron Chatfield.

“He destroyed me, and has controlled my life since I was 15-16, the past 10-11 years,” she told the non-profit news outfit.

“And I know the only way to get justice for this is to come forward and to file a criminal (complaint) against him.”

Rebekah Chatfield's attorney could not be immediately reached for comment on Monday by NBC News.

When asked about Rebekah Chatfield's allegations, Lansing police confirmed they "received a sexual assault complaint from" a 26-year-old woman in December and "immediately began an investigation," Lansing police spokesman Robert Merritt said in a statement to NBC News on Monday.

"Lansing Police Detectives are currently coordinating with Michigan State Police for accusations in jurisdictions outside the city of Lansing," Merritt added.  

Chatfield represented the 107th House District in Northern Michigan, which included Chippewa, Emmet and Mackinac Counties.

Michigan State Police Lt. Brian Oleksyk confirmed his agency is looking into a sexual assault complaint out of its Seventh District, which includes Chatfield's old district.

"The Lansing Police Department referred a complaint to MSP investigators in our Seventh District (Northern Michigan) last week, and it is under review. We have no further information to share on this matter at this time," Lt. Oleksyk said in a statement to NBC News, when asked about Rebekah Chatfield’s allegations.

Before Chatfield was forced out of office due to term limits, he was one of the state GOP's rising stars after assuming the speakership at age 30, the youngest person to hold that seat for more than 100 years.

This investigation prompted Michigan House of Representative attorneys to tell all members to preserve any communications with Chatfield.

Gideon D’Assandro, spokesman for current House Speaker Jason Wentworth, said the chamber is cooperating with police.

"Yes, the House has reached out to the Michigan State Police and the Lansing PD to offer assistance and coordination with their investigations," D’Assandro said. "In order to help them with their work, the speaker ordered a litigation hold."