2012 general assembly

Altercation outside David Williams' office leads to arrest, accusations

Lexington composer charged after incident involving stein supporters

jbrammer@herald-leader.comJanuary 25, 2012 

  • Lexington council members decry redistricting

    Calling the redistricting affecting state Sen. Kathy Stein "ridiculous" and "a travesty," members of Lexington's Urban County Council weighed in on the controversy during a work session Tuesday.

    Councilman Steve Kay called for a resolution decrying the move. The resolution will be made at Thursday's regular council meeting.

    Councilman Tom Blues said the resolution would be a way "to express our disdain." Vice Mayor Linda Gorton said the redistricting was "disrespectful" to the elected officials it affected and the citizens they represent.

    Councilman Doug Martin said the move was "a complete disappointment," adding that the political infighting was like the feud between the Hatfields and McCoys.

    "Good heavens," said Councilman Julian Beard, upon hearing the redistricting took effect immediately. "Can we not file suit?" The city's legal staff said they would look into legal options.

    Mary Meehan

FRANKFORT — Kentucky State Police arrested a Lexington composer Tuesday and charged him with menacing after an altercation outside the state Senate involving supporters of Democratic Sen. Kathy Stein, who recently lost her Lexington district in a Senate redistricting plan.

Lt. David Jude, a state police spokesman, confirmed the arrest and charge stemming from an incident that occurred after the Senate had adjourned for the day, but he had no other information.

The Franklin County Regional Jail's Web site identified the arrested man as Stephen Rhodes Schwartz, who also is known as Stephen Trask. He scored and wrote lyrics for the musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch.

According to the Internet Movie Database, Trask, 45, also has worked on such movies as Dreamgirls, The Savages and Little Fockers.

The arrest evolved from a chaotic scene outside the Capitol office of Senate President David Williams and near the Senate chamber after Stein and Senate Majority Leader Robert Stivers argued on the Senate floor about a redistricting bill that moved Stein out of her Lexington district to northeastern Kentucky.

Stivers, R-Manchester, blamed Stein "for inciting an incident and putting in place the people to create an incident that people could have gotten hurt."

He noted that at least one person, John Barton, a former state police officer and now a Senate doorman, sustained some "bumps and bruises" during the altercation.

Stivers added that Senate leaders have requested extra state police security during the remainder of this year's legislative session.

Stein denied that she had anything to do with what happened outside of the Senate chambers and was aghast that Senate Republicans were trying to blame her.

"I cannot believe this," she said. "They are making this even more of a travesty of justice."

"I did not direct any of these things. It started on Facebook," Stein said of a rally held in Lexington on Sunday and a rally at the Capitol on Tuesday before the Senate went into session.

The group Kentuckians for the Commonwealth helped organize the rally Tuesday afternoon but was not involved in the altercation.

Stein said some people who attended Tuesday's Senate session were constituents she has known for a long time.

About others, Stein said, she had "no idea what their names are."

Police questioned Trask in the office area of Williams, R-Burkesville, after the altercation and took him out of the Capitol in handcuffs at 3:43 p.m.

About 25 supporters of Stein had been in the gallery of the Senate to hear her deliver a floor speech criticizing the Republican-controlled Senate's decision last week to move her district from Lexington to northeastern Kentucky. The move effectively removes Stein, who often criticizes Williams, out of the Senate for at least two years after she completes her term at the end of the year.

During Stein's speech, her supporters sometimes clapped and cheered loudly.

Williams used his gavel to quiet the crowd and once warned that he would have the gallery cleared if another "outburst" occurred.

Minutes after the Senate adjourned, shouts could be heard in the hallway.

Williams was in the chaos, but witnesses said that he did not touch anyone and that no one touched him. Williams had no immediate comment on the situation.

Stivers, who saw part of the chaotic scene, said, "It was evident from my perspective that Sen. Kathy Stein had brought people over here who were not handling themselves appropriately in the gallery. They were hissing and booing and clapping."

Some Senate members were confronted by the Stein supporters when they left the Senate chamber, Stivers said.

Some of the supporters "started putting their fingers in the face of the Senate president" and Barton, the doorman.

Someone grabbed Barton by the neck, and Williams called for additional security, Stivers said.

He called the situation "abhorrent" and said it was done to demean the Senate. "I would lay that completely at the feet of Sen. Kathy Stein."

Stivers said he saw "somebody's hand on Barton's neck" and identified him as the man arrested. He said that Senate leaders did not request the arrest and that the state police decision to arrest the man was based on what they saw and information they obtained.

"It was what I would describe as violence," Stivers said.

The Republican floor leader said he would talk to Senate Minority Leader R.J. Palmer, D-Winchester, about maintaining decorum in the Senate.

David Wheldon of Frankfort, a Stein supporter, said he saw a young man in an altercation "with a man in a suit" as he left the gallery.

"They were in the process of arresting this fellow. Three officers arrested him. He was from Lexington. They was a lot of shoving going on," Wheldon said.

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