By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — A transcript from Republican U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais’ divorce case is being released although lawyers said the public may not see it before Election Day.
Attorney Gerard Stranch, who represents the Tennessee Democratic Party, and DesJarlais’ attorney, Harvey Cameron, said Monday they reached an agreement to release the transcript after both sides argued the case before Circuit Court Judge Jacqueline Bolton.
Stranch said a short time later that Bolton sided with the DesJarlais camp in withholding the completed part of the transcript until all 600 to 700 pages of the transcript are completed. He said that likely wouldn’t happen before Tuesday.
The impact of an Election Day release isn’t clear. More than 120,000 ballots have already been cast in the 4th District during Tennessee’s 14-day early voting period.
DesJarlais, a freshman Republican whose re-election platform includes opposition to abortion rights, has been under fire since a different transcript from the 2001 divorce emerged last month that detailed a phone conversation in which he urged his girlfriend to get an abortion.
The congressman, who is a physician, has contended he was only using strong language to get the woman to admit she wasn’t pregnant, and that both he and his first wife dated other people while their divorce was being finalized.
The revelation gave a boost to the campaign of DesJarlais’ Democratic challenger, state Sen. Eric Stewart.
Stranch said DesJarlais’ attorney changed his position Monday after an earlier agreement that a partial release would be permitted as long as the Democrats paid the full cost of transcribing proceedings. A court reporter in neighboring Marion County was preparing the transcript Monday.
The judge declined to hear a challenge from the Democratic lawyers to release the partial transcript because Cameron had a doctor’s appointment, Stranch said.
Democrats called blocking the partial release a stalling tactic by DesJarlais.
“The voters and constituents deserve to know the truth,” Democratic Party spokesman Brandon Puttbrese told reporters outside the courthouse. “We are willing to push this until the last hour if need be. We will push for full disclosure until voters have a chance to see who this man really is.”
DesJarlais said in a statement that the records were never sealed.
“My opponent and his far-left political allies have done all they can to make this election about everything besides my record in Congress. In fact, it seems that the only opponent that I have ever had to run against is a 14-year-old divorce,” the DesJarlais statement said.
DesJarlais attended the proceedings but declined to speak to reporters about his relationships.
The abortion conversation took place while DesJarlais was trying to reconcile with his first wife.
“You told me you’d have an abortion, and now we’re getting too far along without one,” DesJarlais told the woman, who is not identified in the transcript. “If we need to go to Atlanta, or whatever, to get this solved and get it over with so we can get on with our lives, then let’s do it.”
Michael Galligan, an attorney for DesJarlais’ first wife, said she is supporting efforts to unseal records as long as they are not about the former couple’s child, who is a minor. Galligan said ex-wife Susan Feltman wants the transcripts released to give the full picture of the circumstances surrounding the divorce.
“She is tired of his conceits and deceits and other matters involving his constituents and the press, and basically lying,” Galligan said.
It’s not the first time explosive allegations stemming from the DesJarlais’ divorce have emerged late in the campaign.
The former congressman, Lincoln Davis, used records from the divorce to run negative TV ads in 2010 that reported DesJarlais once repeatedly pulled the trigger of an unloaded gun outside his wife’s bedroom door and another time held a gun in his mouth for three hours.
DesJarlais has blamed “a disgruntled, defeated ex-congressman, a vindictive ex-wife, and a desperate Democratic candidate” for dredging up details from his past.