For­mer pres­i­dent Bush faces grop­ing ac­cu­sa­tions

Ex­perts: Al­le­ga­tions dif­fi­cult to pros­e­cute

The Republican Herald - - NATION - BY NOMAAN MER­CHANT

HOUS­TON — Al­le­ga­tions that for­mer Pres­i­dent Ge­orge H.W. Bush in­ap­pro­pri­ately touched six women in­volve po­ten­tial crimes pun­ish­able by fines or jail time, if they had been pros­e­cuted.

All but one of the cases is in­el­i­gi­ble un­der state laws that limit when a pros­e­cu­tion can be­gin af­ter an al­leged crime, and sev­eral lawyers in­ter­viewed said that it would be dif­fi­cult to win a con­vic­tion against Bush, who has vas­cu­lar parkin­son­ism, a rare syn­drome that mim­ics Parkin­son’s dis­ease.

“You’re still go­ing to be fac­ing pros­e­cut­ing a 93-yearold man in a wheel­chair that’s a for­mer pres­i­dent,” said Toby Shook, a lawyer who pre­vi­ously served as a pros­e­cu­tor in Dal­las. “I doubt if you could ever find a jury that would ever want to con­vict him.”

There’s no in­di­ca­tion prose­cu­tors are planning to pur­sue a case against Bush. Jor­dana Grol­nick, an ac­tress who al­leged that Bush groped her be­hind last year as his wife, Bar­bara, stood nearby, told The As­so­ci­ated Press that she has no plans to re­port the 41st pres­i­dent to au­thor­i­ties. That ap­pears to be the only in­ci­dent that hasn’t reached the lo­cal statute of lim­i­ta­tions on how long a crime can be pros­e­cuted af­ter it oc­curs.

The six in­ci­dents oc­curred in three states over a decade. In all of the cases, the women said Bush touched their but­tocks as they stood next to him to take photos. All three states have laws against touch­ing some­one with­out their con­sent.

The women’s sto­ries broadly fol­low the same out­line: Bush pat­ted them be­low the waist as they stood next to him to take photos, some­times with a joke about his fa­vorite ma­gi­cian or writer be­ing named “David Cop-aFeel.”

Bush has is­sued re­peated apolo­gies through a spokesman “to any­one he has of­fended.” The spokesman, Jim McGrath, said in a state­ment last month that Bush has used a wheel­chair for roughly five years, and that “his arm falls on the lower waist of peo­ple with whom he takes pic­tures.” In a state­ment Mon­day, McGrath said, “Ge­orge Bush sim­ply does not have it in his heart to know­ingly cause any­one dis­tress, and he again apol­o­gizes to any­one he of­fended dur­ing a photo op.”

McGrath did not re­spond to a re­quest for ad­di­tional com­ment Tues­day.

Ac­tress Heather Lind was the first to ac­cuse Bush of grop­ing her, say­ing in an Oct. 24 In­sta­gram post that Bush “touched me from be­hind” and told “a dirty joke” while they posed for a photo at a Hous­ton screen­ing of the AMC tele­vi­sion se­ries “Turn.”

Five more women have come for­ward since then, in­clud­ing Roslyn Cor­ri­gan, who told Time mag­a­zine Mon­day that Bush groped her as they took a photo in 2003, when Cor­ri­gan was 16, dur­ing an event in The Wood­lands, a Hous­ton sub­urb.

The AP gen­er­ally does not iden­tify vic­tims of sex­ual as­sault with­out their con­sent, but is us­ing the names of women who have spo­ken pub­licly on so­cial me­dia or in news re­ports.

Three of the in­ci­dents are re­ported to have oc­curred in Texas. Shook said that un­der Texas law, touch­ing some­one’s but­tocks over the per­son’s cloth­ing would most likely be grounds for a mis­de­meanor as­sault charge, with only a $500 fine and no jail time.

In Maine, where Bush is ac­cused of grab­bing two women, those al­le­ga­tions could give rise to a charge of as­sault or un­law­ful sex­ual touch­ing, pun­ish­able by up to a year in jail, Walt McKee, a de­fense at­tor­ney in Au­gusta, Maine, said.

And in Penn­syl­va­nia, where a re­tired news­pa­per jour­nal­ist has ac­cused Bush of touch­ing her dur­ing an event in Erie, the state’s law against in­de­cent as­sault could ap­ply, Richard Settgast, an ad­junct law pro­fes­sor at Penn State Univer­sity, said.

A key ques­tion in any pros­e­cu­tion, the lawyers said, would be whether the sus­pect touched the vic­tim for sex­ual grat­i­fi­ca­tion or by ac­ci­dent. While age and phys­i­cal dis­abil­ity would fac­tor into any de­ter­mi­na­tion, Settgast said, “I don’t nec­es­sar­ily think that just be­cause some­one’s in­firm, they wouldn’t be able to be held ac­count­able.”

Bush, who served as pres­i­dent from 1989 to 1993, is a beloved fig­ure in both Texas and Maine, the two states where he lives. Two days af­ter the first woman ac­cused Bush of mis­con­duct, Hous­ton Mayor Sylvester Turner tweeted that Bush was “a states­man and role model to me.” Days later, Bush joined his son, for­mer Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush, on the field be­fore Game 5 of baseball’s World Se­ries to throw out the cer­e­mo­nial first pitch.

GE­oRGE H.W. BusH For­mer pres­i­dent

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