The little-known pawnbroker who won this week’s Democratic primary election for Illinois lieutenant governor was arrested in 2005 after his prostitute girlfriend alleged that he put a knife to her throat and pushed her against the wall — an incident that could create a major headache for Governor Pat Quinn.
Scott Lee Cohen denies that he laid a hand on the woman, and says he didn’t know she was a prostitute — he thought she just worked in a massage parlor.
Cohen won the under-publicized primary contest Tuesday night, contested by half a dozen candidates, after blanketing Chicago with ads about job fairs he was sponsoring. That means he’ll be Quinn’s running-mate, assuming the governor holds onto his narrow vote lead over Dan Hynes in the gubernatorial primary, also held Tuesday.
But Cohen may be far from Quinn’s ideal number 2. In October 2005, according to court and police records examined by the Chicago papers, Cohen was taken into custody and charged with a misdemeanor after a complaint from his 24-year-old girlfriend. Police noted “mild abrasions from knife wound” on the woman’s neck, and “minor scars on her hand from her trying to defend herself against the arrestee swinging the knife at her.”
Cohen also allegedly “pushed complainant’s head against [a] wall, causing a bump on the back of her head.”
The case was dropped a month later, after the woman failed to appear for a court date.
Six months before the incident, the woman had been arrested after a police investigation of a massage parlor. She later pleaded guilty to a charge of prostitution.
That’s not the only item on Cohen’s resume that may raise questions. Earlier that year, according to court records examined by the Sun-Times, his wife got a temporary order of protection from a judge. A status hearing in the ongoing divorce case was held Wednesday night.
And Cohen has also had federal tax troubles, other records examined by the Sun-Times show, though he says he has settled them.
When he launched his campaign, Cohen had disclosed the fact that he had been arrested for domestic violence. But the details of that arrest didn’t emerge until late yesterday.
During an interview Wednesday with the Chicago Tribune, conducted before the court and police records came to light, Cohen said he didn’t touch the woman, and that she came home drunk on the night of the incident. He described his relationship with the woman as “tumultuous,” saying he was going through a divorce and and “fell in with the wrong crowd.”
When the paper contacted Cohen’s campaign again after looking at the records, Cohen was no longer available. But a spokesman said he stood by his claim that he hadn’t touched her and that her accusations are false. The spokesman said Cohen did not know the woman was a prostitute, and believed that she was a “massage therapist.”
Quinn may have only himself to blame for getting stuck with a dodgy running-mate. One of Cohen’s rivals from the primary, State Sen. Terry Link, said she and representatives of the other candidates met with the governor’s camp a month ago, urging Quinn and his opponent, Dan Hynes, to publicly criticize Cohen.
“We tried to warn the governor beforehand and they didn’t want to listen to it,” Link told the Sun-Times. “He and Dan should have issued a joint statement denouncing this guy.”
Asked late Wednesday by the Tribune about the details of the police report, Quinn replied: “I think it’s important that he explain exactly what went on there. I’m anxious to hear that.”
The land of Lincoln has seen embarrassing revelations about statewide candidates come out before. In 2004, Jack Ryan, the GOP nominee for the U.S. Senate, quit the race after his divorce records were unsealed, revealing that he had pressured his wife, the actress Jeri Ryan, to accompany him to swingers clubs, intending for the couple to have sex in public.
Barack Obama won the Senate seat that November.