Conyers’ decision on resignation expected in days
Arnold Reed, attorney for U.S. Rep. John Conyers, challenges the credibility of a former staffer who has accused him of sexual misconduct, and says Conyers will make a decision in the coming days on whether to step down. Max Ortiz, The Detroit News
Rep. John Conyers’ attorney said Friday a decision will be made by Sunday or Monday about whether the Detroit Democrat will stay in Congress amid allegations that he sexually harassed employees.
“Health will be paramount in any decision the congressman makes — not any pressure from Washington,” attorney Arnold Reed told reporters at a news conference outside the congressman’s home.
Conyers, who was hospitalized late Wednesday, has repeatedly denied claims that he mistreated staffers, but calls for his departure intensified in recent days as two accusers went public detailing his alleged misconduct. They included House Speaker Paul Ryan, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and four Michigan representatives.
Reed is challenging the credibility of one of those staffers, Marion Brown, with whom the congressman settled a harassment complaint in 2015.
Reed said Friday he’s spoken to “10 to 15 people” who say the incidents described by former staffer Brown “didn’t happen.”
Reed provided the statements of two former federal employees who doubt Brown’s story. Reed said the notarized statements are “a harbinger of what is to come if necessary.”
“There is a plethora of evidence of people who will come forward saying these allegations are untrue,” Reed told The Detroit News.
Brown went public Thursday in accusing Conyers of sexual harassment, breaking a confidentiality agreement she signed as part of a settlement with the Detroit Democrat in 2015.
Brown told NBC’s “Today” show that Conyers touched her inappropriately over the years she worked for him and “violated my body.”
“He asked me to satisfy him sexually,” Brown said, describing an instance when he invited her to his hotel room in Chicago under the guise of discussing business. “He pointed to areas of, genital areas of his body and asked me to, you know, touch it.”
Conyers, the longest-serving member of Congress, settled a wrongful termination complaint with Brown in 2015 after she claimed she was fired for refusing his sexual advances. He paid her roughly $27,000 through his congressional office budget but, as part of the settlement, denied her allegations.
Brown’s attorney could not be reached Friday for comment.
Reed called Brown an “opportunist” but indicated the 88-year-old congressman does not plan to file suit against Brown for breaching the confidentiality agreement. He said Conyers will make a decision in the coming days as to whether to continue representing Michigan’s 13th District, but indicated he has not spoken to the congressman in two days.
“Mr. Conyers asserts that he has done nothing wrong. For some reason, the tide has turned where some people are saying, not all, that he is bashing (women) because he is defending himself,” Reed said.
“He will continue to defend himself until the cows come home. Because unequivocally, unmitigatedly, he has indicated he has not sexually harassed anyone.”
Reed produced a photo of Brown with Conyers for a “photo opp” at the 50th Annual Wolverine Bar Barristers Ball in Detroit in 2011.
“She claims that the congressman did all this to her and was the first to clamor to go to events with him after hours,” Reed told The News. “It doesn’t bespeak of somebody who was sexually harassed.”
Reed provided copies of affidavits of a former congressional aide to Conyers and a former security guard who worked at the federal building where the congressman’s Detroit office is located.
Shawn Campbell, the former aide, says in the affidavit that he worked for Conyers for nearly 10 years and worked alongside Brown. He said Brown requested that Conyers hire her daughter, which the congressman did.
“She never expressed to me or anyone to my knowledge that she was harassed in any fashion,” Campbell wrote.
“The congressman was very concerned about women’s rights, and he fired me for cursing at one of his female constituents who called in for help.”
Campbell worked for Conyers from 2006 through mid-2016, according to federal salary data.
Reed questioned why Brown would want Conyers to hire her daughter and another relative if she knew they might be harassed.
“When you bring your daughter into a situation that you can describe that is completely hell, that’s completely incongruous with anything that resembles logic and truth,” Reed said at the news conference.
Reed said “all hell broke loose” when Conyers fired Brown’s daughter.
James Marbury says in his affidavit that he worked as a security guard at the federal courthouse in Detroit where Conyers’ office is located from 2000 to 2008.
Marbury says he talked to Brown numerous times and observed her interacting with Conyers.
“She never appeared to be uncomfortable around Congressman Conyers, and in fact appeared to have a good professional working relationship with” him, Marbury wrote.
“Ms. Brown never appeared uncomfortable in his office space or anywhere throughout the building. ... I have observed Congressman Conyers to be professional and have never witnessed him speaking in a manner that was unprofessional to any of his staff.”
Officials with the Detroit federal courthouse said Friday they were not familiar with Marbury.
A few Detroit residents shouted at the media assembled outside the congressman’s home to leave Conyers alone. Earlier, Conyers’ wife Monica made an appearance outside the couple’s home before driving off without taking journalists’ questions.
Brown told WDET on Friday that she continued to work for Conyers for so many years in part because she believed in the mission of the office and serving the community.
“I signed this agreement because I felt I had no other choice. It’s a matter of survival. I have four kids. Two in college,” she said. “I was up in age. A senior. And it’s hard to find a job.”
Brown said she doesn’t hate Conyers and is not calling on him to step down.
“When it comes to, why did I speak out now? It’s when I learned and heard the statement from him calling me a liar. Then I said, this is a risk I think is worth taking,” she told WDET.
“I have no reason to lie on him. He’s an African-American. He’s a Democrat. I am, too. I’m not taking away from the fact that he’s a civil rights icon. You know, he’s just on the wrong side of — his behavior was unacceptable and it’s unprofessional.”
Reed said he doesn’t see why Conyers should apologize if he’s done nothing wrong.
Career of U.S. Rep. John Conyers Jr.
Key dates and events in the career of U.S. Rep. John Conyers Jr., D-Detroit
Born: May 16, 1929 in Highland Park as the son of a Detroit labor leader
1947: Graduated from Northwestern High School in Detroit
1948-50: Michigan National Guard
1950-54: United States Army
1954-1957: U.S. Army Reserve
1957: Received bachelor’s of arts degree from Wayne State University
1958: Received law degree from Wayne State Law School
1958-61: Aide to Michigan U.S. Rep. John Dingell
1959-64: General counsel for three labor locals in Detroit
1961-63: Referee for Michigan workmen’s compensation department
1964: Wins Michigan’s then-1st U.S. House District with 84 percent of the vote
1965: Co-sponsored the Voting Rights Act that became law
1967: Unsuccessfully pleaded for peaceful protests at 12th and Clairmount during Detroit riot
1968: Introduced bill to create federal holiday for the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. after assassination
1969: One of 13 founding members and dean of the Congressional Black Caucus
1971: Makes President Richard Nixon’s “Enemies List”
1974: Voted for three articles of impeachment against Nixon before the president resigned
1978: Chatted with Coretta Scott King during a United Auto Workers conference
1983: President Ronald Reagan signed into law Conyers’ bill for MLK holiday
1987: Pushed Jazz Preservation Act to recognize “jazz as a rare and valuable national treasure”
1988: Appointed one of the managers to conduct impeachment proceedings against Federal Judge Alcee Lamar Hastings
1988: Civil rights activist Rosa Parks retires from working at Conyers’ Detroit office
1989: Ran for Detroit mayor and loses to incumbent Coleman Young
1989: Introduced a bill to create a commission to study the impact of slavery and weigh reparations on African Americans
1990: Married Monica Esters. Son John III is born.
1993: Helped push for passage of the Motor Voter Bill to encourage more voter registration
1993: Ran again for Detroit mayor, finished fourth to winner Dennis Archer
1994: Helped draft and gain passage of the Violence Against Women Act
1995: Son Carl is born
1995-2006: Top Democrat on House Judiciary Committee
2007-2010: House Judiciary Committee chairman
2009: Wife Monica pleaded guilty in Synagro bribery scandal, goes to prison
2011: Becomes ranking Democrat on House Judiciary as GOP regains control
2012: Monica released from prison after 37 months
2014: Conyers thrown off Democratic primary ballot for lacking enough valid signatures. Federal judge restores him to ballot
2015: Received Lifetime Achievement Award from Detroit NAACP
Nov. 20, 2017: BuzzFeed published four signed affidavits from former Conyers staff members who said the congressman repeatedly made unwanted sexual advances
Nov. 20, 2017: U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Zeeland, said Conyers should resign if he used office budget to settle a sexual harassment complaint
Nov. 22, 2017: Former House Judiciary Committee counsel Melanie Sloan said Conyers acted abusively toward her
Nov. 22, 2017: New York Democratic U.S. Rep. Kathleen Rice became first member of Congress to unconditionally urge Conyers to resign
Nov. 24, 2017: Conyers continued to deny accusations of sexual harassment
Nov. 28, 2017: Former staffer Deanna Maher tells The Detroit News that Conyers sexually harassed her three times from 1997 to 1999. Conyers denied allegations, missed House votes and flew home to Detroit.
Nov. 29, 2017: Hospitalized after symptoms of dizziness, shortness of breath and chest pains.
Nov. 30, 2017: Former staffer Marion Brown told “Today” show that Conyers “violated my body” and paid her $27,000 after she filed a complaint for being fired for refusing his sexual advances
Nov. 30, 2017: House Speaker Paul Ryan and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi call on him to resign in midst of sexual harassment accusations. Attorney Arnold Reed said Conyers will decide his next move, not Pelosi.
Detroit News Staff Writers Jonathan Oosting, Jocelynn Brown and Oralandar Brand-Williams contributed.