SALT LAKE CITY — Utah House leadership and police are looking into Sen. Daniel Thatcher's claim that House Minority Leader Brian King assaulted him last month before a meeting at the state Capitol.
The two lawmakers have different versions of what happened in a Senate building corridor as they arrived for a Utah Sentencing Commission meeting Oct. 3. And both say surveillance video — which has not been released publicly — will bear out their side of the confrontation.
"I think the video is more than clear," said Thatcher, R-West Valley City.
"It will put it to rest, a lot of it," said King, D-Salt Lake City.
Outgoing House Speaker Greg Hughes, R-Draper, has reviewed the video and spoken to Thatcher and King. He said he has a "pretty good sense" of what happened.
"I've seen enough that I'm moving forward," Hughes said, adding he will issue a letter on the matter before he leaves office in January, though he said he doesn't know if it would be a public document.
The speaker said Thatcher's pursuit of criminal charges against King has no bearing on the House process for investigating complaints.
A decision on criminal charges rests with a South Jordan prosecutor after the Salt County District Attorney's Office handed the case off because of a conflict. The Utah Highway Patrol, which provides security at the Capitol, has not released video of the incident, citing the ongoing investigation.
Thatcher said King "attacked" him, grabbing his lower ribs under one of his arms and slamming him into a wall, after he patted him on the shoulder from behind to say hello. He described it as "vicious and violent."
"It was a full-on wrestle move," he said.
King said he put his hands on Thatcher's arms and stepped into him to let him know he was angry with him.
In his statement to the UHP, King wrote that he was irritated a few days earlier in the Capitol's underground parking lot that Thatcher "angrily" wanted to know why he wasn't supporting his re-election campaign. He said it bothered him and he let Thatcher know it during the incident in the hallway.
"I told him he didn't have a clue what it was like to be in the superminority and he needed to stop acting like I owed him or any other Republican my support," he said.
King, who was elected to another term as minority leader Tuesday, said he quickly apologized verbally and with text messages but "he won't accept my genuine, immediate and sincere apology."
Thatcher first went to the state's human resources department but said he was told it could not do anything because King is an elected official. He filed a complaint with legislative leadership and also went to the highway patrol, which took statements from him and King.
Hughes said it's "inaccurate" that human resources doesn't have role in the process and that it is involved in reviewing the incident, but the decision on how to handle it belongs to him.
Last week, Thatcher posted a five-minute video about the confrontation on his Facebook page to counter King's "dishonest" narrative of what happened, which Thatcher said has changed three times.
Thatcher said that since he filed his complaint, a dozen legislators have told him about run-ins with King, including three with physical contact. He said King has a "long-standing pattern of abusive behavior" and that he needs professional help.
In the video, he said King also yelled at a female member of the governor's staff.
King admitted letting the governor's staffer know he was unhappy with her. He said he apologized after the governor's deputy chief of staff told him he thought King had been too harsh.
King said passion runs high at the Legislature and there have been times when he has touched someone, "but not very often in anger."
"In fact, that incident with Thatcher, as the video will show once we get it out, was probably the most physically aggressive I've ever been with anybody in anger," King said.
But, he said, he's not going to allow Thatcher to blow it out of proportion.
"This is what we do as human beings. I hope it's what we do as human beings, that there are times when we err and we promptly and forthrightly go to the individual that may have been put off and we apologize," King said.10 comments on this story
Thatcher said he was advised to drop his complaint but he can't because he wants to protect others from the same experience. He said King is "dangerous" and he can prove it in court.
"At the end of the day, failure to prosecute this case sends a signal that elected officials are above the law, because we are unless this prosecutor says we're not," he said.
King, an attorney, said he hopes the prosecutor makes a decision quickly, which he said should be easy based on the narrow set of facts.