Republican says the Democrat he alleges assaulted him at the state Capitol needs ‘therapy,’ anger management

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) State Sen. Daniel Thatcher speaks during a news conference about the National Suicide Prevention Hotline Improvement Act being signed into law. Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2018.

In a four-minute video posted to his personal Facebook account last week, Utah Sen. Daniel Thatcher contends that a Democratic colleague he has accused of assault needs “anger management."

Thatcher, R-West Valley City, told The Salt Lake Tribune earlier this month that he and House Minority Leader Brian King, D-Salt Lake City, got into a physical altercation in October in a hallway in the Senate building at the Utah Capitol.

He followed up those assertions with the video Wednesday to correct “some grossly inaccurate information” he says King has spread about the incident.

“What [King] got right is that he did lay hands on me on Oct. 3,” Thatcher says. “What he got wrong is it was literally seconds after I said hello. There was no argument, there was no yelling, there was no shouting, there was no back and forth.”

Thatcher added, “Maybe he doesn’t realize how unhinged he was, but it was vicious, it was violent, it was insane. And it needs… it needs to be addressed. We can’t keep ignoring it.”

King doesn’t deny making physical contact with Thatcher in a confrontation he said happened after an argument over the minority leader supporting Thatcher’s opponent in November’s election. Thatcher disputes both that version of events and the characterization that the clash followed a verbal confrontation.

The Republican, who was just re-elected, has filed a complaint with the Utah Highway Patrol but says he went first to the Legislature’s human resources department. The agency was unable to hold King accountable or force him to get “some anger management that he clearly and desperately needs," he says in the video.

King laughed off the assertion that he should enroll in an anger-management course but told The Salt Lake Tribune on Monday that he will take the suggestion “into consideration.”

“Did I, in this situation in making physical contact with him, do something I shouldn’t have done?" he said. "Yeah, and I apologized immediately for it. I’m not going to do that again.”

House Speaker Greg Hughes, R-Draper, said the assertion that the Legislature’s human resources department would be powerless to act in a situation involving a public official is “not accurate.” He also noted that there is an ongoing inquiry into the incident that will be completed before Hughes leaves office at year’s end.

“We take these things very seriously,” he said. “And so it’s not concluded, but it is a process. It might not be the one that Senator Thatcher wanted or wants, I don’t know. You’d have to ask Senator Thatcher why he’s describing the role of HR the way he is, but it is the case that HR has a role and that we do have a process.”

Thatcher has said part of the reason he went to law enforcement was because he learned King had been involved in other aggressive behavior in the past. Sen.-elect Dan McCay, R-Riverton, confirmed King had punched him on the arm, and Rep. Jim Dunnigan, R-Taylorsville, said King got in a loud and aggressive argument with Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab, on the House floor during debate in 2016 but with no physical contact.

Thatcher referred to these incidents in his video as well as to another between King and a female employee who, he said later, works in the governor’s office. Paul Edwards, the deputy chief of staff to the governor, confirmed that there had been an incident in which a female employee felt cornered and found King’s behavior “quite disconcerting, the kind of volume and agitation that was displayed,” Edwards said.

The employee never filed a formal complaint, but Edwards said the chief of staff and King discussed the incident and resolved it “to the satisfaction of the employee and to the governor.”

Taking into consideration what he views as a pattern of misbehavior, Thatcher said he’s been disappointed that the response to his alleged assault has fallen along party lines.

“I can’t believe how many people have told me that it’s my fault because I should have just decked him when I had a chance,” Thatcher said. “OK. He doesn’t need to be knocked out; he needs therapy.”

Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill confirmed Monday that his office had conflicted the case out to a South Jordan prosecutor who will screen the case for charges. The Utah Highway Patrol has not yet released footage of the incident, citing the ongoing nature of the investigation.