Rep. Steve Roberts launches senate campaign with legal issues still festering

Rep. Steve Roberts launches senate campaign with legal issues still festering

ST. LOUIS – Missouri Rep. Steve Roberts, D-St. Louis, says he will run for state senate, but the announcement comes with a lawsuit against him for sexual assault still unresolved in the courts, and a second suit only days removed from being dropped.

Roberts has served two terms in the Missouri House of Representatives after a brief period as a prosecutor here in St. Louis.  In his announcement, Roberts says he returned to Missouri from law school and legal work in California in 2014 to help serve the community in the wake of the unrest in Ferguson.

It wasn’t long after that, however, that he faced the first of two very public sexual assault allegations.  In both cases, prosecutors looked at the information provided by the alleged victims and chose not to file charges.  Civil suits stemming from both, however, extended into this year.

The first accusation came from another state representative and fellow Democrat, Cora Faith Walker of Ferguson.  She told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch at the time that she had passed out at Roberts’ apartment and was raped. When a special prosecutor from St. Charles declined to bring charges due to lack of evidence, Roberts sued Walker for defamation.  She counter-sued for assault and battery and emotional distress.  Both parties agreed to dismiss their cases on May 22 of this year, less than a week before Roberts announced his senate run.

The second accusation came from Amy Harms in 2015.  She claims Roberts sexually assaulted her inside a bar on Washington Avenue.  No criminal charges were filed in this case either, but Harms filed suit. That case is scheduled to go to trial in July.

The two controversies have not stopped Roberts from moving forward in Jefferson City.  He was elected last year as chair of Missouri’s legislative black caucus.  Walker, it should be noted, resigned from the caucus when Roberts was put in charge.

Roberts makes no mention of the legal entanglements in his campaign announcement, which includes an invitation to a fundraiser set for May 30.  He touts his involvement in the caucus, and work he says he has led in criminal justice reform and women’s rights.

“Social justice and economic development will continue to be a central focus in my campaign and, if I am elected, in my work as a state senator,” Roberts said. “During my time as a prosecutor, I saw firsthand how the system can ensnare those who come into contact with it, especially low-income offenders and people of color. I promise to work for a criminal justice system that is applied fairly, and actually works for the people it is supposed to protect.”

Roberts is seeking the senate seat in Missouri’s 5th district, which will be vacated by Sen. Jamilah Nasheed at the end of this term.  Term limits forbid a senator from serving more than eight years, or two terms.  Nasheed, a Democrat, is serving her second and final term right now.

The fifth district covers most of the city of St. Louis.

Attempts to reach Roberts via phone and email at his campaign address were unsuccessful.  This story will be updated with any response from the candidate.