Tennessee state House candidate DeAngelo Jelks on Tuesday admitted to having an extramarital affair and denied an allegation of rape.
His statement came the day of the special election in which he was seeking to replace the late Rep. Mike Carter, R-Ooltewah. Jelks, 40, of Ooltewah, was the Democrat running for the District 29 seat.
After declining to comment on the allegations Monday, Jelks took to Facebook on Tuesday to admit to an extramarital affair with his accuser.
"I'd first like to apologize to my wife for subjecting her to this heartbreaking embarrassment," Jelks wrote on his campaign's Facebook page. "I'd like to apologize to everyone that has believed in our cause and movement to flip D29 blue. Finally, I apologize to anyone I have offended or disrupted in any way by the revealing of these details. I know for people who have been the victim of sexual crimes, even the idea of such an eventuality can be triggering.
"In the near future, I will be focused on restructuring my personal life and reconnecting spiritually. As far as the elephant in the room, I know that I have let down my supporters, family and friends by having a consensual yet inappropriate relationship," Jelks said. "This matter was personal and private between two consenting adults, and I accept full responsibility for my actions."
In the statement, Jelks directed law enforcement and media to his defense attorney.
Jelks also criticized Chattanooga Councilwoman Demetrus Coonrod, who made the accusations public and advised the accuser to file a report with the city's police department.
"To be clear, I have done nothing illegal. What should've been handled privately has become public because a local politician chose to martyr me for her own positioning. As humiliating as this is to all of us, I am completely cooperative in the Chattanooga Police Department investigation," Jelks said.
"I am also reviewing with counsel my legal response to this false accusation spread by the councilwoman. She too must be held accountable for making false statements, publishing false information and exploiting the influence she's been given by the people, which was used to betray the people."
The defense attorney, Lee Davis, told the Times Free Press that the affair between Jelks and the accuser consisted of four sexual encounters at the woman's apartment between July and August. Davis said the accuser, volunteering on Jelks's campaign, initiated the encounters "between two consenting adults" who were completely sober each time.
Davis said that while Jelks "did something stupid," the handling of the complaint is the main issue.
"Obviously I take allegations of sexual assault extremely seriously, as do most people, but this investigation has real problems to it," Davis said.
According to Davis, Coonrod was initially on Jelks' side.
"Demetrus Coonrod as a city council member called DeAngelo Jelks this past week and offered to protect him, to protect his good name, and brought up race to protect a Black man from a false allegation," Davis said. "In the same week, she is taking the accuser to the police station to form a police complaint. It's on the eve of an election - DeAngelo Jelks' election. Those are red flags for me."
Davis said Coonrod's response was "intentionally damaging" to Jelks and they are "reviewing all options."
"It is a serious matter when you defame and libel someone, even someone running for public office," Davis said.
Coonrod said Tuesday that Jelks' focus is flawed.
"This isn't about me," she said in a text message. "I'm always going to stand up for victims. Allegations of sexual assault is not political and something that we all should take serious. Women have the right to be heard and not silenced."
Jelks is a captain in the U.S. Army Reserve and a married father of two.