BENTON — Attorneys for a former Missouri House speaker accused of hitting and choking a woman succeeded Wednesday in getting the judge in the case to hand it over to someone else.
Former Speaker Rod Jetton did not appear in court at the hearing in southeast Missouri's Scott County. But his attorney, Stephen Wilson, asked for a new judge to replace Associate Circuit Judge Scott Horman. Horman granted the request, but a new judge had not yet been assigned.
Wilson would not say why he made the request, but said "this is not at all unusual."
The change in judge should not substantially delay Jetton's trial on one count of second-degree assault, Wilson said.
Jetton, a Republican from Marble Hill, has said he is not guilty.
The charge stems from a November incident in Sikeston involving a woman with whom the recently divorced Jetton was acquainted. The woman has not been identified by The Associated Press.
According to a police statement filed in support of the charge, Jetton showed up at the woman's home and poured her wine. She drank it as they watched a football game, then faded in and out of consciousness.
The two agreed to have sex, and to use a safe word, "green balloons," if either wanted to stop, according to the police statement. But in an earlier incident report, police indicated the woman told officers that Jetton restrained her hands with a belt and performed unwanted sex.
She told police she recalled Jetton striking her hard in the face and at one point waking up on the floor as he was choking her.
The woman also said that Jetton stayed the night and told her the next day that she "should have said 'green balloons,'" according to the police probable cause statement.
Jetton is not facing any sex charges in the case, and prosecutor Paul Boyd was out of town all week and unavailable to speak about the case, said a woman who answered the phone in his office who declined to give her name.
Assistant prosecutor Andrew Lawson was expected to be in court most of the day, she said.
The alleged victim in the case did not immediately respond to a phone message Wednesday seeking comment.
Asked Wednesday how Jetton is holding up, Wilson said, "I don't know. I'm more worried about defending him."
Jetton, a former Marine and son of a Baptist minister, was first elected to the House in 2000 and served the maximum eight years allowed by term limits. He played a key role in the Republican takeover in Missouri in the 2002 elections. He endorsed "personal responsibility" and pledged to protect "traditional family values" after colleagues elected him speaker in 2005.
But some even in his own party questioned his tactics. He pushed through changes to the House rules that gave the speaker more authority and was nearly ousted as speaker by fellow Republicans who believed he had sneaked a law past them that allowed a political supporter to try to turn his property into a village.
Jetton opened a political consulting business in 2004. His clients included several Missouri lawmakers and GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney in the 2008 election.
The Missouri Ethics Commission ruled in 2006 that no law prohibited such an arrangement but expressed "serious concerns" about the ability of a lawmaker-consultant to avoid legal violations and "the appearance of impropriety."
The consulting business was shut down shortly after Jetton's arrest.