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Kansas lawmaker faces 3 battery charges over school incident

In this photo from Monday, May 3, 2021, Kansas state Rep. Mark Samsel, R-Wellsville, talks on...
In this photo from Monday, May 3, 2021, Kansas state Rep. Mark Samsel, R-Wellsville, talks on his cellphone ahead of the House's daily session, at the Statehouse in Topeka, Kan. Samsel has been charged with three counts of misdemeanor battery over incidents involving two teenage students while he was substitute teaching.(AP Photo/John Hanna)
Published: May. 17, 2021 at 1:00 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas House member was charged Monday with three counts of misdemeanor battery, accused of having made “rude, insulting or angry” contact with two teenage students in a classroom while working as a substitute teacher.

The charges against Republican state Rep. Mark Samsel arose from a student reporting an April 28 incident involving Samsel in what videos showed to be a noisy classroom in his hometown of Wellsville, a town of about 1,700 people roughly 55 miles (89 kilometers) southwest of Kansas City. The brief videos, provided by a parent who said they were shot by students, also showed Samsel talking about suicide, God and sex.

In one video, Samsel can be heard saying, “Who likes making babies? That feels good, doesn’t it?” followed by, “You haven’t masturbated? Don’t answer that question.”

When a student says he won’t answer, Samsel is heard saying, “Thank you. I told you not to. God already knows.”

Another video showed Samsel grabbing a boy, pushing him against a wall and telling him, “I could put the wrath of God on you right now,” before the boy breaks free and runs away, yelling.

Samsel was arrested the day after and released on $1,000 bond. His first appearance in Franklin County District Court by video conference is scheduled for 8 a.m. Wednesday.

A criminal complaint filed by Franklin County Attorney Brandon Jones accuses Samsel of having made physical contact with two 15- or 16-year-old students “in a rude, insulting or angry manner.” The complaint identifies the students only by their initials.

The third charge alleges that Samsel caused “bodily harm” to one of the students. The complaint lists 40 potential witnesses, including at least 15 minors identified only by their initials.

Jones declined to comment about the case. In a Facebook message to The Associated Press, Samsel referred questions to his attorney, who declined to comment about the case.

Samsel, who is himself an attorney, was first elected to the House in 2018 and reelected last year. He also has been a referee for the association that oversees middle and high school sports in Kansas.

There’s no indication yet that he might face disciplinary action from the House, which can censure or expel members over their behavior. Speaker Ron Ryckman Jr., a Kansas City-area Republican, said in a statement that the judicial process “must be allowed to work” to determine exactly what happened and what penalties should be imposed.

“We are concerned by these new charges,” Ryckman said. “The safety of our schoolchildren is one of our highest priorities.”

Samsel’s local superintendent notified him by letter last week that he was banned for a year from Wellsville public school property and events. The letter said he would face a criminal trespass complaint if he violated the ban.

Samsel posted a photo of the letter Saturday on his Facebook page, saying, “This looks like discrimination to me. Fortunately, I know a good lawyer.”

In a Snapchat post from Samsel after his arrest, he said what happened in the classroom was “all planned” to “SEND A MESSAGE about art, mental health, teenage suicide, how we treat our educators and one another.” He said students “were in on it.”

Samsel is the third Kansas lawmaker to face legal problems this year.

Fellow Republicans ousted Sen. Gene Suellentrop, of Wichita, as Senate majority leader in April after he was charged with drunken driving and a felony charge of attempting to elude law enforcement for driving the wrong way on a highway in Topeka. He is scheduled to have a June 3 court appearance.

Democratic state Rep. Aaron Coleman, of Kansas City, was warned by a House committee in writing in February about abusive behavior toward girls and young women before his election last year. He reached a legal agreement in January with the woman who managed his primary opponent’s campaign to end an anti-stalking court order against him.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.