Black lead­ers de­nounc­ing calls for res­ig­na­tion

The Denver Post - - DENVER & THE WEST - By Jack­son Bar­nett and Anna Staver

Sup­port­ers of a high­rank­ing Demo­crat who was ar­rested years ago on do­mes­tic vi­o­lence charges called Thurs­day for party lead­er­ship to step down for their han­dling of the scan­dal.

Pound­ing at the podium, Bishop Acen Phillips, a leader in Den­ver’s black com­mu­nity, said the Demo­cratic lead­er­ship’s re­quest for Ma­jor­ity Deputy Whip Jo­van Mel­ton, D­Aurora, to step down is a “21st­cen­tury lynch­ing of a black man.”

House and other state Demo­cratic lead­ers have urged Mel­ton to re­sign af­ter a Den­ver Post ar­ti­cle de­tailed Mel­ton’s ar­rests. Now the calls for res­ig­na­tion are be­ing re­cip­ro­cated.

“The Demo­cratic lead­er­ship needs to apolo­ gize to him and step down them­selves,” for­mer Den­ver Mayor Welling­ton Webb said.

Mel­ton was first ar­rested in 1999 and pleaded guilty to ha­rass­ment af­ter a wit­ness told po­lice they heard him yelling and hit­ting his then­girl­friend, ac­cord­ing to a po­lice re­port ob­tained by The Den­ver Post. He re­ceived a de­ferred sen­tence.

Mel­ton was ar­rested a se­cond time in 2008 for charges re­lated to do­mes­tic vi­o­lence that were later dropped. Mel­ton has de­nied any wrong­do­ing, and the woman from the 2008 case told Colorado Pol­i­tics that Mel­ton didn’t hit her.

Mel­ton wasn’t at the news con­fer­ence and didn’t re­spond to re­quests for com­ment Thurs­day, but he has de­nied strik­ing ei­ther woman.

Both ma­jor­party can­di­dates for Colorado gov­er­nor weighed in on the sit­u­a­tion Thurs­day.

“Vi­o­lence against women is never ac­cept­able and Jo­van Mel­ton needs to take re­spon­si­bil­ity for his ac­tions and re­sign,” Repub­li­can can­di­date and state Trea­surer Walker Sta­ple­ton tweeted.

Demo­crat Jared Po­lis, a con­gress­man, told KDVR­Chan­nel 31 that Mel­ton “re­ally should take a se­ri­ous look at re­sign­ing.”

“Frankly, I wish he was open about this when he first ran,” Po­lis added. “And I think … there are real is­sues about whether he’s come to terms with it in his own life and his own mind, given the com­ments that I’ve seen in the last few days.”

Thurs­day af­ter­noon’s news con­fer­ence was

at the Brother Jeff Cul­tural Cen­ter in Five Points and fea­tured prom­i­nent lead­ers in Den­ver’s African­Amer­i­can com­mu­nity along with cur­rent and for­mer law­mak­ers.

Webb asked why Demo­cratic lead­er­ship didn’t ask for­mer Thornton law­maker Steve Leb­sock to re­sign when they first learned of the sex­ual ha­rass­ment al­le­ga­tions against him, and why Rep. Dan Pabon, DDen­ver, wasn’t called on to re­sign af­ter he pleaded guilty to driv­ing un­der the in­flu­ence in 2016. Nei­ther is African­Amer­i­can.

“This cre­ates a Jim Crow dou­ble stan­dard of jus­tice by the House Demo­cratic lead­er­ship,” Webb said.

Rep. Joe Salazar, DThorn­ton, an out­spo­ken sup­porter of Mel­ton’s, said it’s wrong to retry the 1999 case.

“He would not have got­ten that de­ferred judg­ment un­less the vic­tim and the DA agreed to it,” Salazar said.

In in­ter­views with The Den­ver Post, the woman in that case said she did not feel jus­tice was served.

“It is one of those things that way back when, when it was said and done, he got a slap on the wrist,” she said, de­scrib­ing the out­come as “a lot of ef­fort put in to not get much jus­tice.”

The Den­ver Post is with­hold­ing the vic­tim’s names be­cause of the na­ture of the charges.

The fall­out from rev­e­la­tions of Mel­ton’s ar­rests has di­vided many in the Demo­cratic Party. For ac­tivists, the rhetoric in sup­port of him has echoes of the same things many Repub­li­cans said about Brett Ka­vanaugh, the re­cently con­firmed Supreme Court jus­tice who was ac­cused of sex­ual as­sault in high school.

“If we are go­ing to yell and scream about be­liev­ing women, we have to be­lieve all women,” said Hazel Gib­son, a Demo­crat who ran for Se­nate District 32 but lost in the pri­mary. “What is re­ally upset­ting for me as a woman, I have seen a lot of Democrats I love and re­spect make ex­cuses very sim­i­lar to what I have seen Repub­li­cans do.”

At the news con­fer­ence, Webb and oth­ers said Mel­ton’s case is not the same as that of Leb­sock or Ka­vanaugh be­cause he pleaded guilty and re­ceived a de­ferred sen­tence for the 1999 case. Webb also ques­tioned the ac­cu­racy of po­lice re­ports.

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