Chatfield admits to affair as 'consenting adults,' denies rape claim

Alleged victim was the ex-House speaker’s future sister-in-law


 THURSDAY, Jan. 6 —  Former state House Speaker Lee Chatfield admitted today to an extramarital affair but said it was with a consenting adult and denied "false rape claims."

Chatfield's  sister-in-law has filed a criminal complaint against him with the Lansing Police Department for allegedly sexually assaulting her beginning when she was a teenager attending his church and the associated Christian school.   The city has turned the matter over to the Michigan State Police and the FBI for investigation.

Today, Mary Chartier, Chatfield's attorney, issued this statement:

"Mr. Chatfield is innocent of the false rape claims made against him. He has affairs while he was married, including a sexual relationship with the woman who is now claiming she was raped. The affair lasted for years, but they were both consenting adults."

The statement continues: "Mr. Chatfield deeply regrets the decisions he has made. It ha caused great pain to his wife and family, and they are working through  this together.

"But," the statement added, "he did not assault this woman in any relationship. He intends to vigorously fight these false claims."

The woman, now 27,  alleged the sexual assaults began when she was 15, and attending Northern Michigan Baptist Bible Church and the Northern Michigan Christian Academy School, said her attorney, Jamie White, of the White Law Firm in Lansing. Chatfield’s father, Rusty, is the pastor of the church and the administrator for the school. The alleged sexual exploitation continued until July 2021.

Chatfield, 33, is one of seven children of Rusty and Betty Chatfield. He would have been 21 when the alleged abuse began.

Before Chatfield ran for the state House in 2014, he was a teacher at the school, as well as the men’s soccer coach and the athletic director. 

A mobile number for Chatfield was answered by an automated voice saying the subscriber was not available. 

Chatfield won election to the state House in 2014, after knocking out moderate Republican Frank Foster. Foster was assailed during the GOP primary for his support of amending the state’s Elliott Larsen Civil Rights Act to include the LGBTQ community. Chatfield remained a staunch opponent of LGBTQ legal protections during his tenure in the House. 

In 2019, Chatfield became Michigan’s youngest House speaker, a post he held until he was term-limited out of the House at the end of 2020. He briefly served as CEO of Southwest Michigan First, an economic development group in the Kalamazoo area. However, controversy over his anti-LGBTQ politics led him to resign the position last February.

During his time in the Legislature he was also arrested at the Pellston Airport in northern Michigan for attempting to bring a loaded handgun onto an airplane. He did not face criminal charges for the incident, but did have to pay a fine for having an unregistered firearm as well as a fine to the Transportation Security Administration. 

(If you are experiencing sexual assault or abuse, call Michigan's Sexual Assault Hotline at (855)VOICES4 or text 1-866-238-1454. Both are anonymous and confidential.)


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