WASHINGTON — John Conyers III, who was endorsed by his father on Tuesday to succeed him in the House, was arrested in February after his girlfriend suffered knife cuts during an argument.
Mr. Conyers, in an interview Wednesday, tried to head off a possibly disqualifying scandal just a day after his father resigned from Congress amid multiplying allegations of sexual harassment. As issues of sexual harassment and abuse roil Washington, any violent altercation against a woman could doom his effort to take the seat that his father held since 1965.
The younger Mr. Conyers said that the couple began arguing around 3 a.m. the day after Valentine’s Day and that after a physical fight, police arrested him on suspicion of domestic violence.
The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office later dropped the charges, but the girlfriend got a restraining order against Mr. Conyers, which remains in effect until March of next year, he said.
“She says I stabbed her, which makes no sense,” Mr. Conyers, 27, said. “I didn’t do this. She and I had a verbal altercation and that escalated. She pulled the knife on me. She was chasing me. I tried to take it from her. There was a struggle. I pinned her to the wall. She kept swinging and she cut herself.”
Mr. Conyers added that he had not spoken to the girlfriend in several months and that the two had agreed to go their separate ways after dating for two and half years.
“At no point did I initiate contact with any objects,” he said. “All criminal charges were dismissed and a restraining order was entered as a cooling off measure. The authorities did not see any need to proceed further.”
The girlfriend, however, gave a starkly different account of the episode, according to documents obtained by NBC News. She told the police that Mr. Conyers had cut her and “body slammed her on the bed and then on the floor where he pinned her down and spit on her,” the report said.
She said Mr. Conyers suspected her of cheating after he went through her computer. She said that she had tried to call police, but that Mr. Conyers took her phone and then chased her into the kitchen, where she grabbed a knife and told him to leave. She also said Mr. Conyers took the knife and swung it at her, cutting her arm, according to NBC News.
Mr. Conyers said in the interview on Wednesday that his girlfriend had eventually called the police. However, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, citing a “lack of independent witnesses,” concluded that it “could not be proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the victim’s injury was not accidentally sustained” while Mr. Conyers was trying to take away the knife, NBC reported.
Mr. Conyers, who describes himself as “a partner at Detroit’s first minority-run hedge fund,” said that he wanted to be honest and transparent about the incident and that he felt remorseful.
“I apologize, and I am regretful for any part I played in escalating the altercation,” he said.
Representative John Conyers Jr. announced Tuesday that he would leave Congress, and he endorsed his son to succeed him. By trying to keep his Detroit-area seat in the family, Mr. Conyers, 88, the longest-serving African-American representative in history, may have touched off a family feud. His great-nephew Ian Conyers, a state senator in Michigan, had already said he plans to run in a special House election.
But John Conyers III said Wednesday that he isn’t sure he wants to run because he does not want to deal with “public life,” which often comes with “unnecessary grief.”
“I didn’t ask my dad to say that I was going to run because I don’t know if I am going to run,” Mr. Conyers said. “I was extremely caught off guard by his endorsement. This is what he wants. Who am I to tell him what he wants?”
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