Earlier this year, a woman said Goforth, 44, strangled her with an ethernet cable to the point where she had trouble breathing and threatened to “hog tie” her, according to a police report reviewed by the newspaper.
The charges have renewed calls from local Democrats for Goforth, a staunch supporter of President Trump who had previously been accused of sexual assault, to resign from his seat. Neither he nor his attorney, Conrad Cessna, immediately responded to requests for comment from The Washington Post.
Goforth, who was raised in poverty by a single mother in eastern Kentucky, was first elected in 2018 to represent the state’s 89th House district, a deep-red swath of countryside where the sale of alcohol remains illegal in most areas.
The Army veteran and pharmacist quickly made a name for himself in the statehouse by championing socially conservative causes, including proposing a “heartbeat abortion” bill that would have banned abortion as early as the sixth week of a pregnancy. As reported by the Louisville Courier-Journal, he also voted in favor of SB-70, a bill that reclassified strangulation as a Class D felony charge and added it to the definition of domestic or dating violence.
Little more than a year after first arriving in the legislature, he announced a primary challenge against then-Gov. Matt Bevin (R), seizing on the incumbent governor’s unpopularity among Kentuckians and his roots outside the state.
“Our commonwealth needs a chief executive who is a conservative molded not by New England and Wall Street, but by Kentucky and Main Street,” Goforth told WLEX in May 2019.
Amid his campaign, a Kentucky woman named Alicia Whitaker accused Goforth of sexually assaulting her more than a decade ago, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported, by forcing her to perform oral sex on one of his business associates. Goforth denied the allegations and went on to make a solid showing at the polls: 39 percent, enough to embarrass Bevin but not boot him out of the race.
Yet less than a year later, Goforth again faced accusations of troubling behavior. In April, a woman in Laurel County arrived at the local 911 dispatch center and told authorities that Goforth had assaulted her while three young children were inside the house.
In a fight over unlocking her phone, he had used an ethernet cable to strangle her so aggressively that she “had difficulty breathing and thought she was going to pass out,” she told police, according to the Times-Tribune.
The alleged incident had left bruises on her leg and marks on her neck and arms, police said, and she was only able to leave the residence after she promised to open her cellphone for Goforth.
The Laurel County Sheriff’s Office said Goforth did not appear to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and arrested him before he posted $25,000 bond. He has since pleaded not guilty to initial charges of first-degree strangulation, fourth-degree assault, and third-degree terroristic threatening, the Courier-Journal reported.
In the wake of his June arrest, GOP Kentucky leaders declined to directly address his case.
“While we reserve comment on this specific situation, the House Majority Caucus unequivocally denounces any form of domestic violence and has zero tolerance for it or its perpetrators,” Kentucky House Speaker David Osborne (R) said in a statement at the time, according to WKMS. “A society that values human life must also condemn domestic abuse."
After the grand jury indictment Friday, Kentucky Democratic leaders doubled down on their call for Goforth to resign. If he refuses, they said, Republican leaders must force him out instead.
“State Representative Goforth should have resigned back in April and his party should have taken action against him when he refused to do so,” Marisa McNee, a spokeswoman for the state Democratic Party, said in a statement, according to the Herald-Leader. “This is not the first time a victim of Mr. Goforth’s violent assaults has come forward. Republican Leadership has ignored this for far too long, it is time for them to take action. Goforth needs to go.”
Mike VanWinkle, a Democrat challenging Goforth for his seat in the state legislature, also issued a called for him to drop out of the race.
“This district has suffered enough embarrassment and bad press over this affair,” he said in a Facebook post Friday. “Mr. Goforth needs to remain focused on his legal case, Domestic Violence issues, and marriage.”