Louisiana's State Police are investigating whether a lawmaker's alleged threat of gun violence against a colleague on the House floor earlier this week warrants criminal charges.
Rep. Alan Seabaugh, a Shreveport Republican, said Friday he filed the complaint with law enforcement shortly after an altercation Wednesday morning with Rep. Malinda White, a Bogalusa Democrat.
Seabaugh claims White violently grabbed him by the arm, and as she was dragged off the floor by a colleague, shouted that she would "finish" their disagreement by getting her firearm. The incident brought the lower chamber to a halt and occurred amid a heated one-on-one conversation over language in domestic abuse legislation sponsored by White.
Legislation that would expand Louisiana's definition of domestic abuse to include behaviors like coercion and control was temporarily sideline…
East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore confirmed Friday that state law enforcement are investigating the encounter. State Police are collecting statements from lawmakers who witnessed the confrontation.
White declined to comment. Following the incident, she told reporters that she likely misspoke, but said as a survivor of domestic abuse, she was set-off by the notion that she didn't understand her legislation.
Seabaugh said White is "clearly guilty" of simple battery for grabbing his arm. He also said she should be charged for threatening a public official with bodily harm, a crime that can carry a $500 fine and up to six months in prison.
"I think if a male Republican had done what she did, they would've been charged already," Seabaugh said.
A proposal to expand Louisiana's definition of domestic abuse to include controlling behaviors like coercion and intimidation was shelved on T…
White apologized to her colleagues on the House floor in the aftermath of the incident. Seabaugh said she also tried to make amends with a hug on Thursday. The pair were slated to meet together with House Speaker Clay Schexnayder, though Seabaugh said White ended up meeting with leadership separately.
"While I can’t comment on an ongoing investigation, the Legislature will cooperate with law enforcement in any way they request,” Schexnayder, a Gonzales Republican, said in a statement. He added that his office will take appropriate disciplinary action against White after the investigation is complete.
The day after the incident, White pulled her legislation, House Bill 159, from consideration. The measure would have expanded the definition of domestic abuse to include non-physical, emotional abuse like coercion, control and intimidation — but only when it's used to prevent a victim from escaping a relationship or contacting law enforcement.
Experts said the language proposed better reflects the realities of domestic abuse, which often begins with controlling behaviors, and would have helped victims obtain protective orders before their circumstances escalated to physical violence.
The public blow-up came moments after Seabaugh told White that she didn't understand the ramifications of her legislation. He argued the definition provided was too broad and would have opened the door to spousal support for unmarried couples, a concern family law experts said is unfounded.
"When I said, 'You're not a lawyer and you don't understand,' she completely lost her mind," Seabaugh said following the dust-up. "She grabbed me by the arm, her face was turning purple and as she was dragged away she said either 'I'm going to get my gun and finish this' or 'Let me get my gun and we'll finish this'."
White said she spent seven years in an abusive marriage when she was younger and was triggered by the assertion that she didn't understand her own legislation.
"He told me I don't know a damn thing about it – and I suffered it," White told reporters Wednesday afternoon. "Nobody's going to come tell me I don't know about that when I lived it."
White said she's already "wired up like a racehorse by nature," and was running on little sleep and steroids after dealing with an illness earlier in the week. "My father comes out of me when my mother should," she said. "My father was a fighter."
Rep. Blake Miguez, who heads up the House's GOP majority, said Schexnayder should punish White by removing her from her committee assignments for at least the next year. He said the relatively lowkey response from House leadership to her actions is dismaying, especially when compared to the sanctions placed on Chalmette Republican Rep. Ray Garofalo earlier in the session. Schexnayder ousted Garofalo as chairman of the House Education Committee weeks after making an offhand comment about the "good of slavery."
"[Schexnayder] needs to be evenhanded in his punishment," Miguez said. "She broke the law on the House floor, she threatened death to another member and she has yet to be publicly reprimanded."
Rep. Mandie Landry, a New Orleans Democrat, noted that Garofalo's removal came nearly a month after he made the controversial remarks. The current dust-up, meanwhile, occurred just days ago. She said its disingenuous to argue that White hasn't been punished considering her legislation was permanently shelved.
"To tell a member they don't understand their own legislation, and then to tell an abuse survivor that she doesn't know what she's talking about is extremely offensive and probably intended to provoke," Landry said.