PENNSYLVANIA- One day after being charged with taking more than $500,000 from her own nonprofit, Rep. Movita Johnson-Harrell submitted her resignation on Thursday, saying she would leave the Pennsylvania legislature next Friday.
“While I dispute many of the allegations lodged against me, I accept responsibility for some missteps made before I became an elected official,” Johnson-Harrell said.
The comments were made in a letter to Speaker Mike Turzai.
“I am choosing to resign to protect my district, to allow for an orderly election for my successor, and to focus on my defense to these allegations.”
The West Philadelphia Democrat was charged Wednesday with theft, perjury, tampering with public records, and related crimes.
State Attorney General Josh Shapiro said a guilty plea would “be worked out” and Johnson-Harrell faces jail time. She said in a statement after being charged that she would “accept responsibility for any actions that were inappropriate” but that she vigorously disputed many of the charges.
Shapiro said Johnson-Harrell engaged in “brazen corruption” and systematically tried to cover up her crimes by falsifying records and financial statements.
“Her theft knew no bounds,” Shapiro said.
The comments were made as he announced that his office had charged the first-term lawmaker with theft, perjury, tampering with public records, and related crimes Wednesday morning.
Under state law, Turzai must call for a special election within 10 days of a vacancy, and that election must be held at least 60 days after the speaker calls for it. That means the election to fill Johnson-Harrell’s seat can’t be held until mid-to-late February.
Johnson-Harrell, 53, is accused of moving money from her nonprofit, Motivations Education & Consultation Associates (MECA), into her personal account, about $39,500 of which she donated at different times to her campaign committee, Friends of Movita.
Prosecutors said she spent tens of thousands of dollars on personal bills, online shopping, designer clothing, family vacations, political donations, and more.
She is the second consecutive representative of the 190th District in West Philadelphia to leave the seat after being charged with crimes. Johnson-Harrell was elected in a March special election to replace Vanessa Lowery Brown, who was convicted of bribery and other charges and resigned last December.
“We are deeply concerned any time someone entrusted with a position of public leadership is accused of crimes that impugn the integrity of elected office,” Turzai and House Majority Leader Bryan Cutler (R., Lancaster) said.
They made the comments in a statement Thursday.
“In light of the actions announced [Wednesday] by the attorney general we appreciate Rep. Johnson-Harrell’s resignation.”
Johnson-Harrell was known for her work to end gun violence, which killed her father, brother, and son.
“I will survive these charges and will continue my work to end the gun violence in our cities,” Johnson-Harrell wrote in her resignation letter, “and to otherwise care for the people I have been fortunate to represent.”
There is another Pennsylvania politician who needs to resign but has not yet done so. While his actions have not yet led to criminal charges, they don’t make the actions any less egregious.
There’s growing outrage over a Democrat state representative in Pennsylvania named Brian Sims, who people across the country are calling on to resign. This, after videos surfaced of him harassing an elderly pro-life woman.
That outrage grew louder after a video emerged of him offering online viewers $100 to dox teenage girls praying peacefully outside a Philadelphia Planned Parenthood abortion clinic
An online petition started by LifeNews.com has garnered picked up nearly 24,000 signatures as of Thursday morning.
Sims, in a video posted online after the controversy, said he “can do better”. He did not apologize
Planned Parenthood stood beside him. While they did say they did “not condone…Sims’ approach” but called him a “champion” on pro-choice issues.
Ashley Garecht is the mother of two of the teens targeted by Sims, who are ages 13 and 15. She told Fox News they didn’t know he was an elected official when he started verbally attacking them for their skin color, religion, and political ideology.
“Just the fact that he’s an adult male interacting aggressively with teenage girls, that alone is inappropriate,” Garecht said. “Him being a politician doesn’t just supersede him being an adult man aggressively approaching teenage women.”
“I would just love for people to understand the core of the pro-life movement is a prayerful movement, we want abortion to end. We want women to have a better option than abortion in their lives. This is not about aggression. I would never engage in that.”
Garecht and her husband, Joe, decided to turn the negative into a positive. They started a GoFundMe “Show Brian the Power of the Pro-Life Movement”, with the goal of raising $100,000 for the Pro-Life Union of Greater Philadelphia.
As of Thursday morning, they are at about $91,000.
“This movement matters,” Garecht said. “The lives of the unborn matter. The lives of the mothers matter. The lives of the clinic workers matter. We pray for them, and we want them to know they’re loved and to let them know they have better options than just to terminate the life of an unborn child.”
Garecht went on “Tucker Carlson Tonight” and said that she and her daughters prayed for Sims and will continue to pray for him.
Abby Johnson is a former Planned Parenthood clinic worker-turned-pro-life advocate. She challenged Sims to face her Friday in front of Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania. She’s now the founder of And Then There Were None, and called him “absolutely unfit to serve.”
She and other pro-life leaders are hosting an event Friday outside the Philadelphia abortion clinic, “to show that peaceful prayer volunteers cannot be silenced or bullied out of standing up for what they believe.”
Last week, Sims went on an eight-minute video rant that exploded online. In it, he verbally harassed an elderly woman protesting outside a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic.
He recorded the woman outside the same clinic in Philadelphia in his district, telling her to pray at home, calling her an “old white lady” and lecturing her about her Christian beliefs on the Periscope app.
Push back against Planned Parenthood protestors, PLEASE! They prey on young women, they use white privilege, & shame. They’re racist, classist, bigots who NEED & DESERVE our righteous opposition. Push back, please! #YouAreStrongEnough https://t.co/rYQOiAhC0D
— Brian Sims (@BrianSimsPA) May 2, 2019
“Push back against Planned Parenthood protestors, PLEASE!” Sims wrote on Twitter Thursday. “They prey on young women, they use white privilege, & shame. They’re racist, classist, bigots who NEED & DESERVE our righteous opposition. Push back, please!”
She asked him to stop recording, but he continued, following her around and threatening to dox her and protest at her house.
“If you know who this woman is, if you can give me her address, we’ll protest out in front of her home,” the lawmaker told viewers. “This is what they deserve.”
He accused her of a “racist act of judgment”, then encouraged her to call the cops, telling her he “knows” the police officers in the area.
“This is what they deserve, and this is what they need,” Sims said of his behavior toward the woman.
Live Action, which is a pro-life organization, posted the video.
WATCH: Pennsylvania State Representative @BrianSimsPA harasses an elderly woman who is peacefully advocating for the lives of preborn human beings and women who are considering abortion.
This is shameful. https://t.co/Xb9pkFZSXC
— Live Action (@LiveAction) May 5, 2019
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They also messaged Periscope saying Sims’ “broadcast violates your rules on abusive behavior. He is harassing, intimidating and using fear to silence this sweet elderly woman.”
“Bring it, Bible Bullies! You are bigots, sexists, and misogynists and I see right through your fake morals and your broken values.”
He continued in another tweet.
“Planned Parenthood protesters are scum! I’ve spent years as a patient escort witnessing firsthand the hate, vitriol, hostility and BLATANT RACISM they spew. You can ‘pray for a baby at home.’ You sure as hell can feed a kid or clothe one instead. Old, fake, White, wrong! #BeReal”
It’s not his first rodeo. Two years ago, he recorded two people outside the Planned Parenthood, telling them “shame on you” and encouraging people to donate to Planned Parenthood.
While some have called for the charges to be filed against Sims for encouraging doxing on the teenage girls, the truth of it is that doxing isn’t illegal.
Doxing is the act of releasing someone’s identifying information on the internet. Because in most cases, the information about a person is publicly available, it doesn’t constitute a crime.
With that being said, if you were to make a move like hacking a person’s email account to post their messages or Social Security number, THAT would be illegal.
The end game for many who are doing the doxing is to lead to their target experiencing repercussions, from public shame to being fired from their job.
In that case, if it’s done with the intent to threaten or harass someone, or leads to threats and harassment intentionally, then those actions can be illegal.
Most states allow for invasion of privacy lawsuits for the public disclosure of private facts, that it’s not a criminal law.
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