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Schoen lawyer suggests mistakes, politics drove sex misconduct claims

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Sen. Dan Schoen's attorney, Paul Rogosheske, addresses allegations.
DFL state Sen. Dan Schoen's attorney, Paul Rogosheske, addresses allegations that Schoen sexually harassed women Wednesday at a press conference in St. Paul.
Brian Bakst | MPR News

The attorney for state Sen. Dan Schoen said Wednesday that Schoen never meant to sexually harass anyone and the allegations against him have either been taken out of context or were mistakes.

Nevertheless, Schoen, DFL-St. Paul Park, intends to resign from the Senate on Dec. 15. 

Attorney Paul Rogosheske said Schoen never sent harassing messages to Rep. Erin Maye Quade, DFL-Apple Valley, and never touched or made a comment about the body of Lindsey Port, a female legislative candidate. 

He suggested that those accusations were driven by Schoen's interest in running for state auditor. Port's business colleague, Jon Tollefson, declared his candidacy for that post in June. However, he stopped short of saying that was the case. 

Rogosheske confirmed that Schoen did send a picture of male genitals to a Senate staffer via the Snapchat mobile messaging service, but said that it was a mistake and meant for an intimate partner, not the woman who received it. 

He said Schoen is willing to cooperate with any investigation. He said the lawmaker chose to resign because he didn't believe he could serve his district effectively anymore and that a Senate ethics inquiry would be expensive and detract from the Legislature's work.

Overall, he painted a picture of someone who'd had his words taken out of context, been wrongly accused and pressured by state leaders to resign. Schoen was condemned by Republican and Democrats and was facing a Senate ethics investigation if he'd refused to step down.

"You know, when you're the governor and you have the Democratic leadership and you have the Republican leadership and people jumping to conclusions without any facts, it's hard to regain that credibility and that ability to serve your district," Rogosheske told reporters.

Schoen, however, did not appear at the press conference to tell his story directly. And the letter he released says nothing about the claims being politically motivated.

"I am hurt by these allegations but I take them seriously," Schoen wrote. "It was never my intention to make an inappropriate advance on anyone. Relationships — both social and collegial — can be hard to navigate, and tone is so often lost in written communication.

"Despite this," he added, "if any of my actions or words have ever made another person feel uncomfortable or harassed, I deeply regret it and truly apologize."

The allegations broke into public view after state Rep. Erin Maye Quade, DFL-Apple Valley, told the online publication MinnPost that prior to winning election to the House she received unsolicited text messages from state Schoen that came off as a solicitation for an encounter at his home.

The run-in with Schoen was while she campaigned for a seat she later won.

Port said Schoen made remarks about her rear end and even patted it at a party function.

Port and Maye Quade were not immediately available for comment Wednesday afternoon.

Rogosheske said Maye Quade misinterpreted text messages sent by Schoen while Schoen was trying to change Maye Quade's rhetoric over the Minneapolis police shooting of Jamar Clark.

"I don't think if I was Jesus Christ reincarnated I could convince Maye Quade that he didn't harass her," the attorney said. "And when you're in that type of an atmosphere where people don't trust you, people don't believe you, it's hard to get things done."

Asked how Schoen could send a picture of genitals to the wrong person, Rogosheske said, "Dan does this a lot — he punches a button and it goes to the wrong people."

The lawyer said that thousands of messages sent afterward between Schoen and the woman who received the image indicated no sexual harassment.