Republican congressional candidate Mark Sanford is accused of trespassing at his ex-wife’s home and faces a court appearance two days after the 1st District special election, according to published reports that surfaced late Tuesday night.
Jenny Sanford confronted her ex-husband as he was leaving her Sullivan’s Island home on Feb. 3. He was not supposed to be at the house, according the filing, obtained by The Associated Press.
Her attorney filed a complaint the next day, the AP said.
The timing of the case so close to the May 7 special election is sure to throw a wrench into a race where Sanford is widely seen as a favorite, though the female vote could sway events if Sanford’s conduct becomes an issue. He faces Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch.
Jenny Sanford confirmed to The Post and Courier that the documents are authentic, but added that she thought they were never supposed to be made public.
“It is a private matter,” she said during a phone interview. “The documents are real, but it was my understanding that the documents would remain sealed, along with our divorce agreement.”
Mark Sanford and Jenny Sanford were officially divorced in 2010 in a Charleston County courtroom. The split came after Mark Sanford, while governor, admitted he had been unfaithful by traveling to meet a woman in Argentina in what became known as his “Appalachian Trail” story. The woman, Maria Belen Chapur, a former TV reporter, is now his fiancee.
Phone and email messages to Sanford’s campaign Tuesday night were not returned.
The Colbert Busch campaign issued a “no comment” in response to the report.
Sanford is attempting to win back the seat — his first political office ever — that he held in Congress for three terms, running from 1994-2000.
The calendar for the complaint would put the pair in front of a Charleston County Family Court judge on May 9.
College of Charleston political scientist Kendra Stewart said the allegation, if true, could definitely sway voters. Sanford, she said, has played up being humble in his return, but that becoming a rule-breaker with an “above-it-all” mentality will go toward reinforcing for many that a lot of “the concerns the voters had (when Sanford left office) were valid.”
She added that there are legitimate studies of some politicians showing that they seek out rule-breaking tendencies as part of the rush that goes with elective office.
The complaint alleges that Sanford was using his cellphone as a flashlight as he left his ex-wife’s home. The couple’s divorce settlement says that neither may enter the other’s home without permission, the AP reported. He lives at the Dockside condominums in downtown Charleston.
“I was returning as he had been leaving,” Jenny Sanford told The Post and Courier of the incident.
Attempts to review the documents were unsuccessful. The Charleston County Family Court website could not be accessed after hours, reading “System Busy or Unavailable.”
The AP reported that the complaint was filed by Jenny Sanford’s lawyer, Deena Smith McRackan, who said Mark Sanford has “entered into a pattern of entering onto plaintiff’s property. Plaintiff has informed defendant on a number of occasions that this behavior is in violation of the court’s order and has demanded that it not occur again.”
One allegation in the report is that Mark Sanford had stepped over the boundary at least two years before.
In Febuary 2011, McRackan sent a letter to Sanford telling him not to trespass on Jenny Sanford’s property. A copy of that letter also was sent to the local police, according to court filings, the AP reported.
Jenny Sanford, who told the AP she has custody of the couple’s four sons, said the filing had nothing to do with the ongoing campaign.
“I am doing my best not to get in the way of his race,” Jenny Sanford told the AP. “I want him to sink or swim on his own. For the sake of my children, I’m trying my best not to get in the way, but he makes things difficult for me when he does things like trespassing.”
Jenny Sanford had stated earlier that she would not endorse any candidate in the 1st District race.
Charleston County Democrat Party Chairman Richard Hricik said the case demonstrates that Sanford thought he was above the rules as governor, and that he thinks he is above the rules now.
“The rules apply to everybody but him,” he said. “It’s clear that he hasn’t learned anything or changed.”
In December 2011, there was another complaint against Mark Sanford brought by Jenny Sanford saying he had not made the $5,000 yearly contribution for one of their sons’ college education. Jenny Sanford said Tuesday that the matter has been resolved but would not comment further, according to the AP report.