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Lawmakers reach agreement in alleged abuse case; Cornell du Houx to take absence from Legislature

Posted May 12, 2012, at 3:35 p.m.
Last modified May 13, 2012, at 4:21 p.m.
Rep. Alex Cornell du Houx, D-Brunwick, and Rep. Erin Herbig, D-Belfast, were in Washington, D.C. on June 17, 2011 to attend a private reception with President Barack Obama and to meet with members of the Obama administration at the White House.
Rep. Alex Cornell du Houx, D-Brunwick, and Rep. Erin Herbig, D-Belfast, were in Washington, D.C. on June 17, 2011 to attend a private reception with President Barack Obama and to meet with members of the Obama administration at the White House.

BELFAST, Maine — Two Democratic lawmakers involved in a romantic breakup that resulted in one of them seeking a protection from abuse order have reached an agreement that will keep one of them away from the Legislature this week.

The agreement, which was reached late Friday, is expected to end a saga that began late last month when Rep. Erin Herbig sought a temporary protection order against Rep. Alex Cornell du Houx.

In her request for the order, Herbig, of Belfast, said the Brunswick lawmaker threatened, harassed and stalked her after a yearlong romantic relationship ended.

A hearing on continuing the order is scheduled for Monday, though an attorney for Herbig said that, based on the agreement that has been reached, he plans to file documents Monday to cancel the hearing.

Reached Saturday, both lawmakers said the agreement would settle the matter. Neither would disclose the terms of the agreement.

Herbig said the agreement satisfied her concern for her personal safety and that she would drop her bid for a permanent order.

“Rep. Herbig is very happy with the terms that have been reached,” her attorney Chris MacLean said in a statement late Saturday. “She will be returning to Augusta next week when the Legislature resumes its work, and she will be returning to a safe workplace.

“Based on the agreement reached, I will be filing court documents on Monday to withdraw the request for a hearing in the protection from abuse matter. In light of the agreement reached, no hearing is necessary,” he added.

On April 30, Herbig sought the protection from abuse order, writing that “I have been concerned for my safety for the last several months and am terrified now.”

She wrote that Cornell du Houx blocked in her car at the State House parking lot, followed her around the State House and had packages delivered to her. She also wrote that Cornell du Houx took photos and video of her sleeping and that the former Marine threatened to “use his military tactics” on her to get her to drop her complaints against him.

The temporary order was granted by Judge Patricia Worth in Belfast District Court on April 30 and served on Cornell du Houx by Brunswick police the next day.

Earlier this month, Cornell du Houx sent an email to the Bangor Daily News that said: “We lived together for almost a year and were engaged to be married and I have the highest respect for Erin. Her statement is completely false. This is a personal matter between Erin and myself over an engagement that sadly did not work. This is just a messy breakup of a loving couple.”

State police were investigating the situation and Capitol Police put restrictions on Cornell du Houx in the State House.

“I will be there until January,” Cornell du Houx said by phone early Saturday, when asked if he planned to resign from the Legislature.

“Last week, I informed leadership that I will be taking an excused absence for the next few days,” he said in an email late Saturday. “It is highly unlikely that there will be any tiebreaker votes and I wanted to calm the situation so everyone can focus on working for the people of Maine.”

Regarding the election, he added: “I’ve dedicated myself to the people of Brunswick as a lawmaker and to my country as an officer in the Navy. I am looking forward to continuing to serve in the Legislature and running for office.”

Lawmakers will meet for a short session to finish budget work next week.

Herbig’s attorney disputed Cornell du Houx’s assertion.

“In light of the confidential nature of the settlement agreement, I cannot provide much additional information,” MacLean said late Saturday, before adding: “I can say that Mr. du Houx knows full well that the reason he requested a leave of absence for the remainder of the legislative session is not the reason he has given in his public statements.”

He said Herbig is absolutely running for re-election in the fall. Both she and Cornell du Houx are listed as candidates for the November election by the secretary of state’s office.

Reid Scher, chairman of the Cumberland County Democratic Committee, said Sunday that if Cornell du Houx decides to resign his House seat before the June primary, it would make it impossible for the party to field a Democratic candidate in House District 66, which represents part of Brunswick. If Cornell du Houx resigns after the primary, the Brunswick Democratic committee would have the opportunity to replace him on the general election ballot. Scher said that process could unfold in various ways, but would probably involve the town committee soliciting candidates and then choosing one of them by committee vote.

“If he steps down before the primary, the seat is functionally lost,” said Scher. “Even if it’s an overwhelmingly Democratic seat, which I’m not sure it is, it’s incredibly difficult, bordering on impossible, to run as a write-in candidate.”

Andy Cashman, chairman of the Brunswick Dems, could not be reached Sunday afternoon.

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