Rep. Thompson says he won't resign amid questions about past domestic abuse, residency

State Rep. John Thompson says he won't quit despite bipartisan calls for his resignation over reports of past domestic violence and questions about his residency.

Thompson, his wife and their supporters held a news conference at the state Capitol on Monday, where Thompson again refused to answer specific questions. Meanwhile, his wife denied allegations that Thompson had abused her.

Thompson renewed a Wisconsin driver's license in November, the same month he won elected office in Minnesota -- and has never publicly provided an address inside his legislative district on St. Paul's east side. While searching for Thompson's residency this month, FOX 9 uncovered three domestic assault cases.

"One of the greatest quotes I’ve ever heard in my life is that your life begins to end with you remain silent about things that matter the most. I will not remain silent, and I will not be resigning. That’s my only quote," Thompson told reporters in a brief statement Monday.

Thompson's refusal to resign puts pressure on House Speaker Melissa Hortman and fellow House Democrats to decide whether to expel Thompson. Through a spokesman, Hortman said she favored using the House Ethics process to decide Thompson's fate if Thompson won't leave on his own.

"I believe it's in the best interest of John Thompson, his family and the institution for him to resign," Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, said Monday afternoon.

Thompson's wife, Lea Austin-Thompson, told reporters that she had never been an abused woman. She then detailed a 2003 incident in Superior, Wisconsin, in which police said Thompson hit Lea Austin-Thompson in front of her 5-year-old daughter. The Thompsons were not married at that time.

"My husband and I went through things. We didn’t always agree with things," Austin-Thompson said. "But I have never been abused. He never has abused me."

Neither Thompson nor Austin-Thompson explained separate incidents in 2004 or 2009. FOX 9 obtained photos from Eagan Police in the 2004 incident, when Thompson was accused of choking his then-girlfriend and pushing her into the kitchen table, which broke.

Austin-Thompson said her husband privately offered to her over the weekend to resign from his office, but she declined the offer.

"No. That’s what we’re not going to do. we’re not going to resign," she said. "What the people in this (Capitol) will have to do is take Team Thompson from his office, kicking and screaming and holding onto his desk. We’re not resigning. We’re going to fight this like we’ve never fought before."

Numerous Democrats, including Gov. Tim Walz, joined Republicans in calling for Thompson's resignation last week.

The freshman lawmaker faces myriad controversies. A Hennepin County jury found him guilty of misdemeanor obstructing justice last week from a 2019 incident in which Thompson was accused of blocking a North Memorial emergency room door and resisting arrest.

He was cited July 4 for driving after suspension in St. Paul, an incident that brought to light Thompson's Wisconsin driver's license and sparked questions about his residency.

The pro-Thompson news conference was interrupted when a woman drove across the Capitol lawn, leading to a confrontation with Thompson supporters. The driver then led the Minnesota State Patrol on a brief chase before being taken into custody.

The woman, identified as 52-year-old Tammi Jeka of St. Paul, was taken into custody and transported to Regions Hospital for evaluation. 

No force was used during the incident. The State Patrol will forward the case to Saint Paul city attorney for consideration of charges, including reckless driving.