Every day, our journalism dismantles barriers and shines a light on the critical overlooked and under-reported issues important to all North Carolinians.
Before you go …
If you like what you are reading and believe in independent, nonprofit, nonpartisan journalism like ours—journalism the way it should be—please contribute to keep us going. Reporting like this isn’t free to produce and we cannot do this alone. Thank you!
The Transylvania County Sheriff’s Office issued a criminal summons against a North Carolina legislator Wednesday morning, which was greeted by calls for his resignation the following day.
The Sheriff’s Office opened a criminal investigation against state Rep. Cody Henson, R-Transylvania, Sheriff David Mahoney said last month. Records from the Sheriff’s Office indicate that this is a cyberstalking complaint from his estranged wife, Kelsey Henson.
On Thursday, the North Carolina Democratic Party issued a call for Henson to resign. “Any form of domestic violence or abuse is categorically unacceptable,” said Julia Buckner, president of the Democratic Women of North Carolina. “The Democratic Party believes women and we are steadfast in our commitment to stand with survivors. Cody Henson must resign immediately.”
Asheville-based television station WLOS reported late Wednesday that District Attorney Greg Newman is recusing himself from the Henson case because he supported him during Henson’s recent re-election bid. Newman, WLOS reported, plans to ask N.C. Attorney General Josh Stein for his office to prosecute the case.
Rep. Henson’s attorney, J. Michael Edney, who is also a member of the Henderson County Board of Commissioners, emailed Carolina Public Press about the case late Wednesday.
“We have not seen the paperwork at this point, so will reserve comment until we have the opportunity to review,” Edney said.
“We look forward to working through the legal process and to achieving a positive outcome for all involved, especially the children.”
State statute says repeated messages intended to abuse, threaten, terrify, harass or embarrass a person are considered cyberstalking, a Class 2 misdemeanor.
Kelsey Henson won a yearlong domestic violence protection order against Rep. Henson last month, after a hearing with Judge Fritz Mercer that lasted several hours.
She testified during the hearing that Cody Henson repeatedly texted her outside of the hours that they had established to communicate regarding their two young children. She asked him to stop, yet he persisted.
During that hearing, her attorney said the judge was convinced that Cody Henson had acted inappropriately.
“The judge said from the bench it’s clear that (Rep. Henson) just refused to give up on the relationship despite the fact that she told him repeatedly that she didn’t want to get back together with him,” said Ben Scales, Kelsey Henson’s attorney for the hearing, immediately afterward.
Kelsey Henson has said she has struggled to get anyone to take her seriously because Cody Henson is a state legislator. In one of a few 911 calls regarding Cody Henson or his mother, she told the operator: “I’ve been doing this for too long. I can never get any help because of who he is. It’s just really hard.”
Carolina Public Press has made multiple inquiries about Cody Henson’s alleged behavior to the North Carolina Republican Party and House Speaker Rep. Tim Moore, R-Cleveland. Neither has returned a request for comment.
In the Democratic Party’s press release on Thursday, House Democratic Whip Deb Butler explained why the statement came after a ruling from a civil court judge last week, which found that Henson had been involved in domestic violence.
“I have remained silent on this issue until this time because in the United States people are presume innocent until proven guilty in a court of law,” Butler said, explaining that the judge’s ruling changed this situation. She added, “There is no place for domestic violence in our society, particularly on the part of an elected official who purports to be a role model for our youth. In my opinion, he should resign.”
Cody Henson represents Transylvania and Polk counties, as well as much of Henderson County in the N.C. House of Representatives.
If Henson were to resign, his position would be filled by another Republican, chosen by the Republican Party executive committee for his district.
Editor’s note: Managing Editor Frank Taylor also contributed to this article.
You can strengthen independent, in-depth and investigative news for all of North Carolina
Carolina Public Press is transforming from a regionally focused nonprofit news organization to the go-to independent, in-depth and investigative news arm for North Carolina. You are critical to this transformation — and the future of investigative and public interest reporting for all North Carolinians.
Unlike many others, we aren’t owned by umbrella organizations or corporations. And we haven’t put up a paywall — we believe that fact-based, context-rich watchdog journalism is a vital public service. But we need your help. Carolina Public Press’ in-depth, investigative and public interest journalism takes a lot of money, persistence and hard work to produce. We are here because we believe in and are dedicated to the future of North Carolina.
So, if you value independent, in-depth and investigative reporting in the public interest for North Carolina, please take a moment to make a tax-deductible contribution. It only takes a minute and makes a huge difference. Thank you!