INDIANAPOLIS — Northwest Indiana's Republican state representatives are standing by House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, amid allegations that he attempted this year to intimidate a former Democratic intern with whom in 1992 he reportedly had a sexual encounter.
But Gary's Democratic Rep. Charlie Brown likened Bosma's behavior to that of new Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
Brown said he and other legislators who were part of the Indiana Black Legislative Caucus discussed back then the reported liaison between Bosma, 34 at the time, and the 20-year-old intern, because she was African American. He said they believed it was consensual and declined to make public their concerns.
A joint statement issued Thursday by 64 GOP lawmakers and House candidates declares that an Indianapolis Star article detailing the claims against Bosma — which he strenuously denies — is an attempt by the newspaper "to discredit him, a conservative leader, with uncorroborated allegations."
"Having worked alongside the speaker, some of us for decades, we know him to be a man of integrity, and we believe him," the legislators said.
"Speaker Bosma has been a great leader making Indiana the best place in the country to live, work and raise a family. We stand by him 100 percent as he continues to lead our state forward."
The letter was signed by, among others, state Reps. Mike Aylesworth, R-Hebron; Doug Gutwein, R-Francesville; Julie Olthoff, R-Crown Point; Jim Pressel, R-Rolling Prairie; Hal Slager, R-Schererville; and Ed Soliday, R-Valparaiso.
The only Republican representatives not signing on to the letter supporting Bosma were five retiring legislators; two who repeatedly have clashed with Bosma's leadership; one hospitalized representative; and state Rep. Bruce Borders, R-Jasonville.
The letter does not address the specific allegations against Bosma, which include using some $40,000 in campaign funds to hire an attorney to gather unflattering information about the former intern, and reportedly threatening to release that information if the woman ever publicly spoke about her encounter with Bosma.
'Like Brett Kavanaugh'
Brown told The Times he believes the alleged 1992 sexual encounter between a 34-year-old Bosma and the 20-year-old intern did occur, because it was discussed at the time by members of the Indiana Black Legislative Caucus.
Ultimately, Brown said the caucus decided not to publicize the alleged incident that was believed to be consensual.
"Much later, we came to a point of regret," said Brown, who has represented Gary in the House since 1982.
The woman told the Star that in light of Bosma's recent tactics, she now sees how the Republican representative was in a position of power over her as a Democratic intern, and she did not feel like she could say no to his sexual advances.
Brown said the alleged incident came up again when at least three lawmakers, including himself, separately mentioned "womanizing" to Bosma in the hope of advancing their stalled legislation.
One day after he mentioned it, Brown said, Bosma and his wife showed up outside Brown's office and they jointly insisted the allegations were untrue.
"It's rare for me to be speechless, but I stood there with my mouth open saying, 'Wow, how in the world could he convince his wife to come down here and validate his story?'" Brown said.
The Gary representative said he did not believe Bosma then and does not believe his denials now.
Brown said he chiefly is bothered by Bosma's reportedly using a lawyer to try to intimidate the woman into silence.
"That's what's disturbing to me. That they would go and do that kind of research to try to disparage her name, so that she would not speak out," Brown said. "It's like Brett Kavanaugh on a local level."
At the least, Brown said Bosma should confess to the incident and apologize.
Brown also believes Bosma should resign as House speaker, in part because Bosma was so quick to demand the attorney general resign over sexual misconduct allegations.
"How can you lead the chamber with this kind of cloud over your head?" he asked.
Governor not seeking resignation
Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb declined to answer specific questions about the allegations against Bosma, since he said the only source for the claims was a newspaper article and not any kind of official investigation.
"I don't think it would be fair of me to comment on that story at this time having not the benefit of an actual report, just of the story," Holcomb said.
The governor explained that he sees the Bosma situation as different from the sexual assault allegations leveled this summer by four women against Republican Attorney General Curtis Hill, who also has denied the allegations against him.
Holcomb said he joined Bosma and Senate President David Long, R-Fort Wayne, in calling for Hill's resignation, because Holcomb was provided a law firm's summary of the women's claims to evaluate independently.
In this instance, he said, there only is a newspaper article to rely on, as the alleged intimidation victim has not pursued any type of legal claim against Bosma or his attorney.
In contrast, the Indiana inspector general is investigating Hill, who remains in office, for possible criminal prosecution based on the claims made by the four women, including state Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon, D-Munster.
Candelaria Reardon declined to comment on the Bosma allegations.
Holcomb indicated that he sees no reason why Bosma can't continue playing a leading role in shaping the General Assembly's new sexual harassment policy, which House Enrolled Act 1309 requires be adopted by Nov. 20.
"I don't worry. That's a matter that's left up to the Legislature," he said. "There's 150 of those members who will craft their sexual harassment policies and then deal with questions that come before them."
The governor also said he's not concerned about how the allegations against Bosma might play with Hoosier voters heading into next month's general election.
Democrats, however, already are attempting to tie GOP U.S. Senate candidate Mike Braun to Bosma, citing a newspaper report showing that Braun voted the same as Bosma on 98 percent of the roll calls taken during Braun's three years in the Indiana House.