House Speaker Melissa Hortman said Wednesday that she will wait until the end of court proceedings involving Rep. John Thompson before taking further action against the St. Paul Democrat who has refused her call to step down.
Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, is among a wide cast of DFL state party leaders — including Gov. Tim Walz — urging Thompson to resign amid reports of multiple domestic violence allegations documented by three police departments from 2003-2011.
Thompson has rejected such calls and disputed the allegations.
"The recent reports and actions of Rep. John Thompson are deeply troubling, which is why I have called for his immediate resignation," Hortman wrote in a letter to Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crown.
House Republicans had called on Hortman to act after Thompson refused to step down.
"I'm disappointed in Speaker Hortman's inaction," said Daudt. "The demands for Rep. Thompson's resignation from Speaker Hortman and the DFL majority ring hollow when they refuse to take any steps to hold him accountable. We are reviewing Speaker Hortman's letter and will be preparing a response."
A Hennepin County jury found Thompson guilty Wednesday of misdemeanor charges of obstruction of justice in connection with a 2019 incident at North Memorial Hospital. Thompson was sentenced to six months' probation, according to the Pioneer Press, and will avoid a 30-day county workhouse stint if he does not commit a crime during that period.
In a brief statement from the Hennepin County Government Center lobby, Thompson asked for privacy for his family and vowed to get back to the media with a decision on his future.
"I'm going to continue fighting for people who look just like me — people who don't have a voice. I'm going to continue to be that voice. This is a bump in the road for me," said Thompson, flanked by his wife.
Thompson also has been at the center of a cascading set of controversies spanning most of this month, starting with his claim that a St. Paul police officer racially profiled him when the officer stopped him for driving without a front license plate on July 4. Hortman said Wednesday it may a couple of months before all court matters related to the July 4 traffic stop are resolved.
St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell demanded Thompson apologize for the profiling accusation after Axtell said body camera footage of the encounter refuted Thompson's accusation.
Thompson also gave the officer a Wisconsin driver's license, not one from Minnesota, raising ongoing questions as to whether he lives in his district. A St. Paul address listed on Thompson's citation is not located in his district. A Department of Public Safety spokesman said that addresses that appear on citations can be populated via license plate, registration or other ways. The department said that the address it has on file for Thompson is not considered public under state and federal law.
Scrutiny over Thompson — which hasn't abated since his participation in a 2020 protest outside the Hugo home of then-Minneapolis Police Federation President Bob Kroll — came to a head over the weekend when reports surfaced of a series of domestic violence cases across three cities a decade ago in which Thompson was accused of hitting and choking his now-wife, at times in front of children.
That prompted nearly every state DFL leader to call on Thompson to step down, with the exception of Attorney General Keith Ellison. In a statement, Ellison called the allegations "serious and should be taken seriously."
But, he added, that as "chief law officer for the state of Minnesota, I am called on to represent all bodies of state government. Because this matter may end up in litigation involving one or more of those entities, I cannot say more at this time."
In her letter to Daudt Wednesday, Hortman wrote that she would follow the same protocol she did in 2019 when she stripped Rep. Matt Grossell, R-Clearbrook, of his public safety and judiciary committee assignments after he was charged with disorderly conduct and trespassing after he grappled with a security guard at a hotel bar near the Capitol.
When Hortman took action against Grossell in August 2019, he still was participating in a diversion program related to the charges filed three months earlier.
In a letter to Grossell on her decision, Hortman cited her review of police reports in the case and records from the House "summarizing past incidents of member conduct" that involved similar allegations.
The House ethics committee is scheduled to take up a previous complaint against Thompson on Friday that was filed last month by Rep. Eric Lucero, R-Dayton, over Thompson calling him racist on the House floor.
To date, no other ethics complaints have been filed against Thompson related to his traffic stop or past domestic violence allegations.
Hortman told Daudt that she would refer any ethics complaints to the House Ethics Committee pursuant to House rules. Ethics complaints can be filed by any two House members under oath.
Hortman's letter also alluded to Daudt's previous suggestion that he may file a complaint against the freshman DFL lawmaker.
"There is no need to tie your decisions to those of any other member and, in fact, it is not advisable or ethical for any member to attempt to leverage the decisions of any other member in such matters," Hortman wrote.
Staff writer Liz Sawyer contributed to this report.