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CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — A state lawmaker has been charged with sexually and physically assaulting a 16-year-old girl last year under the guise of discussing her interest in politics.
Republican Rep. Eric Schleien, of Hudson, has been charged with one misdemeanor count of sexual assault and two misdemeanor counts of simple assault, Rockingham County Attorney Patricia Conway said Friday. Schleiein's attorney said he vehemently denies the allegations.
According to police documents, Schleien approached the teen at an Exeter cafe on July 20, 2016, and struck up a conversation after he noticed a political sticker on her laptop. She told police that they exchanged phone numbers after he suggested he could introduce her to other politicians and help her network and that she agreed to meet him two days later.
Schleien, 29, drove the girl to Portsmouth, she said, but instead of discussing politics, he scared her with sexually explicit talk, sucked on her fingers and groped her inner thigh.
The girl told police Schleien described a list of sexual things he wanted to do to her, including "rape" her mouth, and asked her to go to his apartment. After she declined, she said, Schleien asked her where she liked to be kissed, and she answered her hand "because it was the farthest part away from her body."
When they got in his car, Schleien locked the doors, grabbed her hand and started kissing and sucking on her fingers, she told police.
"She stated that his grip on her hand was firm and she could not pull away," police wrote. "She was afraid to say anything because she was afraid that he would become mad and would do something worse or not take her home."
Police say Schleien's attorney provided a statement in which the lawmaker denied any unwanted sexual contact and said the teen told him, "I feel very safe around you."
In a statement Friday, his attorney, Seth Hipple, said, "It is important to note that these charges are misdemeanors and do not allege that there was any sort of violence or threats. Mr. Schleien has pleaded not guilty, is cooperating with the process, and expects to be fully vindicated."
Text messages reviewed by police show the girl told a friend during the meeting that she was uncomfortable and scared.
The girl reported it to police the next day. In January, police requested an arrest warrant, which was issued in February. Schleien was arrested and charged in April and is scheduled to be arraigned Aug. 2.
Conway declined to comment on why she announced the charges Friday.
Schleien is in his second term representing Pelham and Hudson. The state Democratic Party called for Schleien to resign. Republican House Speaker Shawn Jasper called the accusations disturbing but cautioned against a rush to judgment while the criminal case is pending.
In May, former state Rep. Kyle Tasker, 31, was sentenced to three to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty to charges of drug possession and trying to lure a 14-year-old girl over Facebook into a sexual encounter. The Nottingham Republican resigned in March 2016, a week after his arrest.