ST. PAUL, Minn. (KMSP) - If Jesus Christ reincarnate came down from heaven, even he couldn't convince Minnesota Rep. Erin Maye Quade that her colleague didn't harass her.
That was the sentiment shared by a lawyer for state Sen. Dan Schoen at a press conference Wednesday, though he sure tried anyway.
"There's nothing here," attorney Paul Rogosheske said at one point. "These things never happened."
With the embattled legislator conspicuously absent, Rogosheske claimed one account of sexual harassment against Schoen was fabricated while another was taken out of context, though he eventually admitted that Schoen did send a lewd Snapchat picture by accident to a Senate employee two years ago.
Sharing pages of text messages sent by Schoen, as well as other communications meant to give his words--as shared by Maye Quade to various media outlets--context, Attorney Paul Rogosheske announced the legislator's resignation at a press conference and attempted to show the world that Schoen never meant to harass anyone or make them feel uncomfortable.
He also added that Lindsey Port, who accused Schoen of making suggestive comments and grabbing her buttocks, runs a political consulting firm with current candidate for state Auditor Jon Tollefson--a race Schoen reportedly considered entering until, he says, Port confronted him about taking her allegations public.
"This certainly raises questions," Rogosheske said. "Enough to pursue, and ask questions of Mrs. Port."
At the press conference, Rogosheske repeatedly cited anonymous capitol insiders who were in the room when Port says Schoen grabbed her and deny he ever commented on her body or made inappropriate contact with her, showing at one point a picture of the two at the end of a networking event with her arm around Schoen.
Port, for her part, maintains that her complaints were not politically motivated, saying that she first reported the incident in 2015--well before Tollefson ever considered running for state office.
"He can say whatever he wants to say," she said. "I've told my story and I think that we've had a better conversation [about sexual harassment] because of it."
In addition to Port's allegations, a series of texts between Schoen and Maye Quade--first reported by MinnPost as "persistent and unwanted invitations to meet"--reached a climax in December 2015 when he sent her the text, "I almost got her. Working on her pretty hard, but I almost got her."
Maye Quade said her "blood went cold," though Rogosheske now says the entire interaction was a simple misunderstanding.
In the wake of a police shooting that killed Minneapolis man Jamar Clarke and sparked weeks of protests, Maye Quade--a candidate for the state House at the time--spent time talking to and about the burgeoning Black Lives Matter movement in Minnesota. Schoen, a veteran legislator relative to Maye Quade, began texting her to be careful about her statements.
The "I almost got her" text was meant for a police contact who was concerned about Maye Quade's statements and not Maye Quade herself, Rogosheske argued, saying the message was never intended to be sexual.
Maye Quade, however, released a statement Tuesday night bristling over what she saw as Schoen ducking responsibility for his actions.
"Almost worse than being sexually harassed at work is my harassers not acknowledging what they did is wrong," she wrote. "One senator's resignation does not change the culture. I want to change the culture."
A third allegation--that Schoen sent a Snapchat of male genitalia to to DFL caucus staff member Ellen Anderson--Rogosheske claimed was a complete accident, claiming the picture was meant for an "intimate partner." He later said that Schoen has since apologized for his actions.
Despite the claims and his very public resignation, Schoen maintains--in both his resignation letter and through his attorney, that he is committed to stopping sexual assault, both in the legislature and elsewhere.
"I am hurt by these allegations but I take them seriously," he wrote in his resignation letter, effective Nov. 15. "Awareness is a positive thing. It calls attention to an issue we need to address as a society. It is unfortunate that so many people have these stories to tell in the first place."