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U.S. Rep. Watkins maintains he did no wrong

Published: Jul. 14, 2020 at 10:40 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Second District Congressman Steve Watkins said he did nothing wrong after being charged with three felony counts and one misdemeanor.

The charges stem from Watkins vote in the 2019 Topeka City Council election and a voter registration form that listed an UPS store as his address.

Watkins said Shawnee County District Attorney Mike Kagay had not contacted him about filing felony counts of interference with law enforcement by providing false information, voting without being qualified, unlawful advance voting and the misdemeanor of not changing his address on his driver’s license.

Kagay announced the charges 45 minutes before Watkins and two republican challengers met for a debate in Topeka.

Kagay told 13 News the investigation was delayed by the COVID-19 shutdown. He said he announced the charges because he received the affidavit, not because of the debate.

“I think the elephant in the room were these ridiculous charges that were brought up a half-hour before the debate,” Watkins said following the debate. “My lawyers and I are shocked. We’ve been fully supportive and to me, it’s just obviously politically motivated. Just like all the investigations of Donald Trump.”

Watkins said it was a mistake that the form said his residency was a UPS store. He changed it to a southwest Topeka apartment complex, but that address was located in a different council district.

The interference charges alleged Watkins gave false information to a detective investigating the case back in February.

Republican state treasurer Jake LaTurner is challenging him for the seat.

“Congressman Watkins said he lived in an UPS store because he didn’t actually live in Kansas. That’s unacceptable. But what was so shocking about the news of today, is there is an additional charge of lying to the police,” said LaTurner. “This is not normal behavior for elected officials in the state of Kansas.”

Also on the GOP Primary ballot, former Shawnee County Commissioner and State Cabinet Secretary Dennis Taylor.

“Well, it’s not a congressional issue,” said Taylor. “It won’t matter in congress one way or another so, I leave it to the district attorney to decide and the voters ultimately to decide. Obviously, if I were in Steve’s shoes I’d prefer not to have it. I’m sure he does as well but it’s not a congressional issue.”

LaTurner said, “It’s time to turn the page on Congressman Watkins.”

The charges carry penalties anywhere from five months to nearly three years in prison, if convicted.

Watkins’ first court date isn’t until December 3 after the election.

13 News has followed the case since December of 2019.

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