Chatfield's wife comes to ex-speaker's defense over allegations of sexual abuse

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

The wife of former House Speaker Lee Chatfield came to his defense Thursday with a lengthy statement denying her sister-in-law's allegations of sexual abuse and accusing her of financial motivations. 

Stephanie Chatfield said "there is no question" that her husband had multiple affairs, but she maintained in a statement through her attorney that each of the relationships was consensual.

The statement came more than a month after police confirmed they were investigating a complaint against the former House speaker from his sister-in-law, Rebekah Chatfield, who alleged she was sexual abused by Lee Chatfield starting at age 15 before and after she married his brother.

Lee Chatfield, through an attorney, has maintained Rebekah Chatfield was 18 when the affair started.

In 2015, State Rep. Lee Chatfield, R-Levering, took the oath of office with wife Stephanie at his side. Administering the oath is Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Young.

Stephanie Chatfield on Thursday claimed that there were inconsistencies in Rebekah Chatfield's story, that her sister-in-law needed psychological counseling and that the allegations were part of a larger scheme to "become a millionaire and film her documentary."

"The Chatfield family is working through the pain as a family that Mr. Chatfield has caused, and Mrs. Chatfield unconditionally supports Mr. Chatfield as he asks for forgiveness and works to make amends with those he has so deeply hurt," lawyer Matt Newburg wrote in a statement made on Stephanie Chatfield's behalf. "However, Mrs. Chatfield now feels compelled to defend her family."

Rebekah Chatfield's lawyer, Jamie White, responded Thursday by expressing compassion for Stephanie Chatfield "during revelations of serial infidelity, a criminal investigation and a financial misdeeds investigation." But he also said Stephanie Chatfield's "screed" was a typical response to sexual abuse allegations.

"It is a well-established fact that the vast majority of victims of childhood sexual abuse hesitate to come forward for years, and Stephanie Chatfield’s lengthy screed is a classic, textbook illustration of the reasons why," White said in the statement.

"When victims summon the courage to come forward, the pain of their abuse is too typically followed by the additional pain of being shamed, called insane, called liars or, in this case, some combination of all of the above," he said. 

Both Rebekah and Stephanie Chatfield indicated in their statements that they were cooperating with police.

The Lansing Police Department, Michigan State Police and Attorney General Dana Nessel's office have all confirmed they are participating in the investigation into Rebekah Chatfield's claims. 

The Michigan House told members last month to preserve all documentation that might be tied to the investigation, which appears to have expanded to some of Chatfield's spending and nonprofit activity. 

Police obtained a warrant to search the home and cell phone of Rebekah Chatfield's husband, Aaron, last week and on Tuesday they searched the Bath Township home of his former top staffers, Rob and Anne Minard. 

Rob Minard, whose home was searched Tuesday, was Lee Chatfield's chief of staff while he was speaker of the House in 2019 and 2020. His wife, Anne Minard, was Chatfield's director of external affairs.

No one has been charged in the ongoing investigation.

Staff writer Craig Mauger contributed.