I do agree with the motion that was passed in regards to the fact that, in this current climate I can see where a lack of confidence to serve would be in question. The citizens of District 15 and Idaho need lawmakers who have their full ability to represent the people. —Representative Mark Patterson, R-Idaho
BOISE, Idaho — Republican Rep. Mark Patterson said Wednesday he'll resign from the Idaho Legislature after party colleagues from his Boise district urged him to quit amid revelations that he had pleaded guilty in 1974 to assault with intent to commit forcible rape.
Patterson said he'll hand in his resignation to Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter this week. The move came just hours after members of the GOP precinct committee in District 15, which Patterson represents, voted unanimously late Tuesday to ask him to step down.
The 39-year-old case in Florida came to light in early November when Ada County Sheriff Gary Raney revoked Patterson's concealed weapons permit on grounds that he didn't disclose the criminal case on his application.
In a brief statement, Patterson said Wednesday that he agreed with the District 15 committee's conclusion that in the current climate, his ability to serve had been called into question.
"I do agree with the motion that was passed in regards to the fact that, in this current climate I can see where a lack of confidence to serve would be in question," Patterson wrote in an email. "The citizens of District 15 and Idaho need lawmakers who have their full ability to represent the people."
On Tuesday night, District 15 officials met behind closed doors, emerging after three hours with the unanimous recommendation that he step down.
"In the current climate, this committee has no confidence in Rep. Patterson's ability to represent the people of District 15 and the state of Idaho in the Idaho House of Representatives," the 15-person precinct committee wrote. "This committee requests that Rep. Patterson tender his resignation."
Republican House Speaker Scott Bedke welcomed Patterson's decision.
If Patterson had insisted on serving in the 2014 Legislature starting in January without the backing of local GOP officials, it would have created a significant distraction for lawmakers otherwise hoping to tackle regular business, Bedke said.
"Obviously, there would have been increased media presence," he said. "This is the best course forward, not only for Rep. Patterson and his family, but also for his constituents in District 15, the House of Representatives and the state of Idaho."
Bedke said he hadn't spoken with Patterson on Wednesday before the announcement.
"I know that he'd been seriously considering this for some time, and regardless of the atmosphere, it's a hard thing to do, resigning your seat," Bedke said.
Patterson was 21 in 1974 when he was charged with rape in Tampa. A 46-year-old woman told police that Patterson forced her to have sex twice and threatened to have his Doberman pinscher attack her if she refused, according to police reports.
Patterson served time in jail before agreeing that July to plead guilty to the lesser charge of assault with intent to commit rape and received a withheld judgment and five years' probation.
The case emerged publicly when the Idaho Statesman reported Raney revoked Patterson's concealed weapons permit in late October.
Patterson contends he didn't commit the crime, saying he pleaded guilty because he feared languishing longer in jail and was told it would be expunged from his record.
Additionally, he believes Raney revoked the concealed weapons permit as an act of retaliation against him for, among other things, sponsoring legislation during the 2013 session that would have punished Idaho law enforcement officials for helping the federal government confiscate any newly banned weapons.
Raney was opposed to that bill, which failed in the Senate.
Meanwhile, Raney contends he acted appropriately and didn't unfairly target Patterson.
In Florida, a withheld judgment is generally a legal compromise allowing a person who successfully completes probation to have a judgment of guilt withheld from his or her case.
However, Raney contends it was grounds to bar Patterson from getting a concealed weapons permit.
Patterson was the second lawmaker in the Idaho Capitol to resign in the past two years.
In February 2012, state Sen. John McGee quit after an aide accused him of sexual harassment. McGee, a Republican from Caldwell, eventually pleaded guilty to disturbing the peace.