© 2012 Idaho Press-Tribune
BOISE — Former Caldwell GOP Sen. John McGee left the courtroom in handcuffs Tuesday after a judge sentenced him to up to 88 days in jail for sexually harassing a state Senate staffer and violating his probation in the process.
McGee was somber and contrite at the 47 minute sentencing hearing in Boise. He pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor disturbing the peace charge for sexual harassment and admitted to violating the terms of his probation.
But 4th District Judge James Cawthon struck down a deal McGee’s attorney and prosecutors had reached that would have seen him spend only five days in jail.
Cawthon said McGee’s sexual harassment of a 25-year-old female staff worker at the Statehouse in February was, under the circumstances, egregious enough to warrant the incarceration.
McGee was escorted from the courtroom as friends and family watched. His wife Hanna McGee left the courtroom in tears.
McGee will also have to spend two years on supervised probation, pay $500 in court costs and fees and must continue to get counseling. McGee must serve 44 days in jail before he can ask for work release or to work on the sheriff’s inmate work detail for another 44 days. Cawthon gave him two days credit for time already served. If approved for work release, McGee would return each night to a special work release facility for the remainder of his incarceration. If approved for the sheriff’s work detail, he would be free to return home.
McGee’s probation violation was for a previous DUI conviction last winter in connection with the same case — the result of the sexual harassment complaint that cost McGee his Senate seat and his role in legislative leadership.
McGee will also have to pay $960 in restitution to the victim’s compensation fund in the harassment case and attend classes about having healthy relationships and setting appropriate boundaries.
Cawthon also revoked a withheld judgment for McGee’s 2011 DUI conviction.
When asked by Cawthon why he was pleading guilty to disturbing the peace, McGee replied “Your honor, on Feb. 7, I acted inappropriately. I used language I should not have used. I conducted myself in a way that was offensive and I am guilty of this.”
Ada County prosecutors said in June that McGee became “sexually provocative” toward the female employee, but did not elaborate in court.
At first the employee told her mother what had happened, but no one else. Around that same time, co-workers noticed that the employee appeared “unhappy, tearful, and crying often” and asked her what was wrong, Ada County Deputy Prosecutor Jean Fisher said. That eventually led to an Idaho State Police investigation.
“She believed her job was on the line, even though she believed she was sexually harassed,” Fisher said about the victim.
Senate officials said in February that another legislative employee brought the woman’s account to Senate leaders. They confronted McGee, who resigned Feb. 22, just before the news of the investigation broke.
Cawthon said the fact that McGee was a public servant at the time of the sexual harassment and held a position of trust made the offense particularly inappropriate, as well as the fact that the offense took place in the Statehouse.
“This happened while you were a Senator on misdemeanor probation,” Cawthon said. “And you picked a person (who), when you look at the hierarchy, probably took that job excited to work for you. And in the hierarchical structure of things was weaker than you.”
Cawthon talked about how McGee had apologized for his 2011 driving while intoxicated arrest and told the court he would learn from the experience.
“Then seven months later I’ve got you committing another crime,” Cawthon said. “What’s troubling is I’m concerned about you personally and what’s going to happen to your family. I don’t know that there’s something wrong with you that you can’t control yourself.”
The prosecutor in the case described how McGee harassed the victim multiple times. She said the victim’s friend tried to help her isolate herself from McGee at the Statehouse but that McGee continued with his conduct. The prosecutor also said McGee told the victim to say his conduct never happened.
McGee’s attorney said the former senator denies some of the allegations of the prosecution. But he did admit to sexual harassment of the victim on Feb. 7.
Attorney Scott McKay asked Cawthon if McGee could have seven days to get his affairs in order before having to go to jail. Cawthon said no, so McGee was taken into custody.
McGee is now unemployed and looking for work, McKay said. He resigned as marketing director for West Valley Medical Center in June after his disturbing the peace arrest.
“He’s worried how he’s going to support his family on a day to day basis,” McKay told the judge. “He knows his actions have not only turned his life upside down but Hanna’s life upside down.
“In the end what John has left is his family. That’s all he has left.”
- The Associated Press contributed to this report.