Congressman Don Sherwood Choking Scandal

C-SPAN radio this morning reported on a disturbing situation surrounding Rep. Don Sherwood of Pennsylvania’s 10th District. The story is a few days old but has received little national attention.

Sherwood denies choking woman Exclusive (Wilkes-Barre Times Leader | 04/30/2005)

Police responded to the Washington, D.C., apartment of U.S. Rep. Don Sherwood seven months ago after a woman who was visiting called 911 and reported he choked her. Sherwood, R-Tunkhannock, says he was falsely accused. He pointed to a police report that stated the woman backed off the claim. He also said he̢۪s the victim of a political smear. No one has been charged in what the police termed a domestic incident.

“Both parties have left out significant information or are not willing to discuss in detail what actually happened,†Washington Metropolitan Police stated in the incident report. Cynthia Ore, 29, of Rockville, Md. locked herself in a bathroom and called 911 from her cell phone on the afternoon of Sept. 15, saying Sherwood “choked her for no apparent reason†while giving her a backrub in his apartment on D Street, according to a police report. Sherwood, 64, told police he was giving Ore a backrub when she “jumped up†and ran to the bathroom, the report stated. Police in Washington said they saw no visible injuries on Ore’s neck and had trouble getting to the bottom of the story. “Based on interviews with both parties and no physical evidence of injury to (Ore), there was no probable cause to make an arrest or reasonable cause to believe (Ore) was assaulted,†the incident report stated.

Exclusive: Republicans rallying to help Sherwood get past report (Wilkes-Barre Times Leader | 05/03/2005)

Republicans are circling the wagons around U.S. Rep. Don Sherwood, R-Tunkhannock, in the wake of an incident involving a 29-year-old woman in his Washington, D.C., apartment last September. “The only thing you have in life is your reputation,†said Marge Matisko, an activist with the Luzerne County Republican Party. “Don Sherwood has always been very well-respected, and he always valued that. This has hurt him personally and professionally, and that’s a shame.â€

No one was charged in what police termed a domestic incident. Despite an absence of charges, Sherwood may have suffered severe political damage, one pundit says. “He’s sitting on a hot issue, and one that is potentially damaging,†said Thomas Baldino, a political science professor at Wilkes University. “If he’s smart, he’ll just come clean.â€

I’m not sure when political science professors became “pundits” although I suppose several fulfill both roles, giving the proliferation of poli-sci bloggers. Regardless, Baldino is correct. Things have escalated, too, with this op-ed from this morning’s edition of the paper:

OUR OPINION: Constituents deserve the whole story on Sherwood (Wilkes-Barre Times Leader | 05/03/2005)

THE CONSTITUENTS of U.S. Rep. Don Sherwood deserve to know what̢۪s going on. On Saturday, the Times Leader reported that last fall, Washington D.C. police were called to Sherwood̢۪s apartment in response to a 911 call from a woman who was visiting there. Cynthia Ore, 29, told the police Sherwood choked her.

Defenders of the representative say there̢۪s much that diffuses this story. The incident happened seven months ago and only came to the attention of the media through one of Sherwood̢۪s past opponents. The woman who called 911 backed off of her claims when police arrived and no charges were filed. Sherwood says the accusations are false and that it̢۪s a political smear.

But it̢۪s not that simple. In the police report, Sherwood says he was giving the woman a back rub. Sherwood has been married for 33 years, according to his own congressional Web site. When Sherwood spoke to Times Leader reporters, he called the woman an acquaintance. He said he didn̢۪t invite her. But then, why let her into his apartment?

Sherwood is a four-term congressman. He’s a member of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, Vice Chairman of the Subcommittee on Foreign Operations, a member of the Subcommittee on Labor, Health & Human Services, and Education, and a member of the Subcommittee on the Interior. We’d expect someone with all that responsibility would be smart enough — savvy enough — not to allow himself to be put into a compromising situation.

One would hope. Sadly, however, we’re not infrequently disappointed when we harbor such expectations. The fact that the woman apparently was not bruised belies her claim of being choked. The “back rub” story, however, is rather implausible.

FILED UNDER: Policing, Uncategorized, , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. McGehee says:

    Jeez, what happened to real news — like the Michael Jackson trial?

  2. Kappiy says:

    Of course, it generally shouldn’t be the public’s business when it comes to what appears to be a consensual relationship.

    But Sherwood has a strong history of supporting government interference in peoples’ private affairs, so this case is a bit ironic.

  3. vnjagvet says:

    Giving backrubs to a woman more than 35 years your junior, even to your daughter(granddaughter?)’s best friend is risky at best for a married, conservative politician, donchathink?

    I don’t think my wife would be too interested or sympathetic to whatever explanations I were to offer up for such an indiscretion.

    If it was a setup, it sure worked.

  4. Ryan says:

    The story didn’t say if he was married. Anyone know.

  5. KevK says:

    The story said his web site says he’s been married for 33 years.

    Soon to be updated to “was married for 33 years, now divorced”.

    BTW, he met this girl at a Young Republicans meeting. He’s a preditor.

  6. Anderson says:

    Anyone else thinking of the foot-rub discussion in Pulp Fiction? No? Never mind.

  7. Former Resident says:

    He also has 3 daughters, close in age!!! However, he’s not a preditor- he’s just a pig.

    I have known Mr Sherwood since I was 10. As a former voter (D) in the district, I voted for Mr. Sherwood(R). If I still lived there and he really didn’t try to strangle this woman, I would again vote for him, because he is good at what he does. I think that he is doing a good job fighting to rejuvenate his district, both creating jobs and new business. Could he do more? Of course he could do more, but most Congressmen could.

    So your saying “how could you say that?” I believe that people should be in office because they are truly trying to improve their country, state, district, city, etc. Having an affair with a woman 35 years younger than him is not a crime- nor a sin. I do feel sorry for Mrs. Sherwood, because she is one the kindest women that I have ever met.

    What a elected offical, or any one for that matter does with their sex life is THEIR business. If the cops get called and no charges are filed, why is this coming out? It’s a just political smear campaign that I had enough of all last year. I hope that the Democrat that brought that out to the public is happy that he most definately embarrassed 4 women- Sherwood’s wife and 3 daughters. It’s downright depressing that political parties can not be civil anymore.

    I hope her charge is untrue. Yet, I can’t help feeling disappointed with Don Sherwood- not as a Congressman, but as a person.

  8. 570-339-4937 says:

    the only one who embarrassed the 4 women and himself is sherwood. let’s just hope the democrats will run a candidate against him and get him out of office because he was handed that seat in the first place!!!!

  9. dajoki says:

    the only one who embarrassed the 4 women and himself is sherwood. let’s just hope the democrats will run a candidate against him and get him out of office because he was handed that seat in the first place!!!!

  10. Cheri says:

    We are praying for you, Carol and the three girls to get through this.