MINNEAPOLIS — After a jury found him guilty on Wednesday of misdemeanor obstruction, DFL State Representative John Thompson walked through the revolving doors of the Hennepin County Government Center and addressed the media on-camera for the first time in about two weeks.
"I'm not a criminal. I've never been a criminal," Thompson told the press corps. "Sometimes, fighting for justice has legal ramifications, and here we go."
But Thompson's conviction in the 2019 obstruction case involving police at North Memorial Hospital - which carries a small fine and probation - is not the primary reason why leaders of both parties have demanded his resignation from public office. Gov. Tim Walz, along with DFL and Republican legislative leaders, have all said Thompson must step down after police reports were uncovered showing a series of domestic assault allegations against him dating back to 2003. Multiple incidents, according to the reports, happened in front of children.
At the courthouse on Wednesday, Thompson did not address the domestic assault allegations. He also did not directly address the calls for his resignation, other than to say he wanted "a little bit of respect for me and my family, to just let us have a few days and we'll make a decision and get back to you guys on that." The state representative then left the courthouse without answering questions.
Thompson's attorney, Jordan Kushner, clarified that Thompson's reference to making a "decision" was connected to the calls for his resignation.
Kushner has questioned the authenticity of the police reports from the multiple agencies that have investigated Thompson since 2003, and he noted on Wednesday that his client has never been convicted of domestic assault.
"I think it's wrong for the elected leaders in the state to rush to judgment right away," Kushner said. "I think everyone is entitled to due process. I think the constituents who elected him are entitled to have due process and fact-finding, to determine what happened."
Now, lawmakers must decide how to move forward.
DFL House Speaker Melissa Hortman, who has joined calls for Thompson to resign, said in a letter Wednesday that "I will refer any ethics complaint I might receive to the Ethics Committee pursuant to House Rules. In the absence of an ethics complaint, I will take action at the conclusion of court proceedings." Hortman's spokesperson declined additional comment following the guilty verdict on Wednesday in Thompson's misdemeanor case.
Republican House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt said he was "disappointed in Speaker Hortman's inaction," saying the calls for Thompson's resignation "ring hollow when they refuse to take any steps to hold him accountable. We are reviewing Speaker Hortman's letter and will be preparing a response." Republicans have been clear that they intend to file ethics complaints, which could ultimately lead to punishment or even Thompson's expulsion from the legislature if both parties support such a measure.
However, even without ethics complaints, Hortman would have some unilateral power to punish Thompson, including stripping him of committee assignments.
On Friday, the House Ethics Committee will meet about a separate ethics complaint lodged against Thompson, in which Republican Eric Lucero has accused the freshman lawmaker of breaking House rules by interrupting a filibuster.