Democratic leaders and progressive groups have asked Rep. Jovan Melton, D-Aurora, to resign in the wake of The Denver Post report that Melton was arrested twice in the last two decades on charges related to domestic violence involving two girlfriends.
“The Denver Post story is deeply disturbing and very serious. We have spoken with Rep. Melton privately and encouraged him to resign,” said the statement Wednesday from Speaker Crisanta Duran, D-Denver, Majority Leader KC Becker, D-Boulder, and Assistant Majority Leader Alec Garnett, D-Denver.
Their position was echoed by Colorado Democratic Party Chair Morgan Carroll, who said in a statement she told Melton privately it was “in the best interest of his district for him to step down,” and by ProgressNow Colorado’s staff, who sent a letter saying it “stands with survivors, especially in moments like these.”
Boulder police arrested Melton in 1999 on charges of trespassing and harassment in an incident involving his then-girlfriend, according to Boulder police records. He was 20 years old and a University of Colorado Boulder student at the time. He pleaded guilty and received a deferred sentence.
In 2008, Denver police arrested Melton on a misdemeanor assault charge that was also related to domestic violence, according to court documents. The case was dismissed.
Melton has signaled that he doesn’t intend to resign. In a statement released Tuesday, he said looks forward to working with his colleagues at the legislature in 2019.
House leadership acknowledged they cannot force Melton, who is currently the majority deputy whip, to resign. His Arapahoe County seat is considered safely Democratic, and he’s running unopposed for his fourth and final term.
Not everyone in his party wants him to go.
Rep. Leslie Herrod, D-Denver, expressed support for Melton during a Facebook Live event with community organizer Jeff Fard.
Herrod said her party’s leadership was “acting in haste. Here’s why: We don’t have all the information. We don’t have all of the facts.”
She also said Melton told her he had “made amends with the women.”
Melton denied any wrongdoing in both cases during two interviews with The Denver Post. He later said in a statement that he was “both embarrassed and heartbroken to be reminded of my immaturity all those years ago.”
The Denver Post interviewed the woman from the first incident but is withholding her name at her request due to safety concerns.
She said she hasn’t talked to Melton since that night in December 1999, and she’s afraid of him to this day. That fear, she said, is a big part of why she moved to another state.
“I absolutely would fear for my personal safety if still lived in Denver, anywhere in the state,” she said.
The woman told The Denver Post she felt like their college friends and the legal system favored Melton at the time, making Boulder a lonely place to be after his arrest. She left CU afterward.
“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.”
Republicans in the Colorado House and the state party have questioned whether Democrats knew about these allegations before they appeared in The Denver Post.
“What did Democratic leadership know, and when did they know it?” GOP Chairman Jeff Hays said. “We saw with Rep. Steve Lebsock that Speaker Crisanta Duran was willing to promote a man she believed to be guilty of harassing a colleague. Did she, Majority Leader KC Becker, Assistant Majority Leader Alec Garnett, or other House Democrats know about Rep. Melton’s past, too? ‘No comment’ is unacceptable when the questions are this serious.”