Black leaders denouncing calls for resignation
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.