DesJarlais divorce papers show abuse accusations

DesJarlais divorce papers show abuse accusations

September 17th, 2010 by Andy Sher in Politics Regional

NASHVILLE - A Washington-based newspaper reported Thursday that the ex-wife of 4th Congressional District Republican candidate Scott DesJarlais accused him of harassment, intimidation and physical abuse during their divorce.

Roll Call, which covers Congress, said the accusations are contained in Marion County Chancery Court motions filed in 2000 and 2001 by Susan DesJarlais against her husband, a Jasper physician who is challenging U.S. Rep. Lincoln Davis, D-Tenn.

The couple's divorce was finalized in 2001.

DesJarlais campaign manager Brent Leatherwood said in an e-mail to the Chattanooga Times Free Press that DesJarlais' ex-wife's charges were false and accused Davis, a four-term incumbent, of peddling the story to Washington reporters and engaging in "gutter" politics.

"Obviously, our poll numbers have Lincoln Davis running scared if he is dredging up one-sided accusations from a decade-old divorce that were shown to be untrue," Leatherwood said. "The court ruled there was no validity to any of them. Period."

He said that for Davis and his campaign "to sling this kind of mud shows how desperate they are."

The Davis campaign did not respond to a Times Free Press request for comment about the matter.

Roll Call reported that, in one court motion, Susan DesJarlais claimed she was forced to leave the family's residence when her husband's behavior "became violent and threatening."

The publication said she accused DesJarlais of "dry firing a gun outside the plaintiff's locked bedroom door, admission of suicidal ideation, holding a gun in his mouth for three hours, an incident of physical intimidation at the hospital; and previous threatening behavior ... i.e. shoving, tripping, pushing down, etc."

The term "dry firing" involves pulling the trigger on an unloaded gun.

Roll Call also reported that a 2001 follow-up order found Susan DesJarlais in contempt of court for verbally abusing and cursing Scott DesJarlais in the presence of their child.

In Roll Call, Davis campaign manager Justin Wallin was quoted as saying that Susan DesJarlais' allegations against Scott DesJarlais "very serious and disturbing."

"In the 4th Congressional district, people expect more than lip service about family values," Wallin said.

Leatherwood said "there is an unwritten rule in politics that a person's marriage is off limits. It's always noteworthy when a politician breaks this rule, especially a politician like Lincoln Davis."

The judge who granted the divorce in 2001 criticized the conduct of both the husband and wife, case records show.

"Frankly the conduct of both parties has been below what I think would be the standard you would want your child to have after you raised him to adulthood," Chancery Court Judge Jeffrey Stewart said at one hearing, court records show.

Earlier this week, the DesJarlais campaign released results of a poll it commissioned showing DesJarlais and Davis are in a statistical dead heat with voters. Davis led by 45 percent to 41 percent. The survey had a margin of error of plus or minus 5.66 percent.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Contact Andy Sher at asher@timesfreepress.com or 615-255-0550.