Party animal Arizona lawmaker expelled after #MeToo movement

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Arizona Republican state Rep. Don Shooter drops his mic after voting no on a resolution expelling him from the Arizona House for a pattern of sexual harassment in Phoenix, Ariz., Thursday, Feb. 1, 2018. (Source: AP Photo/Bob Christie) Arizona Republican state Rep. Don Shooter drops his mic after voting no on a resolution expelling him from the Arizona House for a pattern of sexual harassment in Phoenix, Ariz., Thursday, Feb. 1, 2018. (Source: AP Photo/Bob Christie)
Female members of the Arizona House, from Republican and Democratic parties, hold hands to express support for Rep. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, middle facing camera, as the House prepares to vote to expel Don Shooter. (Source: AP Photo/Bob Christie) Female members of the Arizona House, from Republican and Democratic parties, hold hands to express support for Rep. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, middle facing camera, as the House prepares to vote to expel Don Shooter. (Source: AP Photo/Bob Christie)
In this Feb. 14, 2017, file photo, State Rep. Don Shooter is seen on the floor of the Arizona House in Phoenix, Ariz. (Source: AP Photo/Bob Christie) In this Feb. 14, 2017, file photo, State Rep. Don Shooter is seen on the floor of the Arizona House in Phoenix, Ariz. (Source: AP Photo/Bob Christie)
Arizona state Rep. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, center, leaves the House speaker's office along with Reps. Jay Lawrence, left, and Vince Leach, right, in Phoenix, Ariz., Thursday, Feb. 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Bob Christie) Arizona state Rep. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, center, leaves the House speaker's office along with Reps. Jay Lawrence, left, and Vince Leach, right, in Phoenix, Ariz., Thursday, Feb. 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Bob Christie)
PHOENIX (AP) -

Known for booze-fueled partying and good-ol' boy, clownish behavior, Rep. Don Shooter spent the past seven years as a hard-to-miss fixture who wielded considerable power at the Arizona state Capitol.

But on Thursday, he was kicked out of the Arizona Legislature for a lengthy pattern of sexual misconduct.

[READ MORE: AZ House votes to expel Rep. Don Shooter]

The whispered rumors about the retired and married Yuma farmer were brushed off as the actions of a country bumpkin jokester until October when the #MeToo movement prompted millions of women to share their experiences with sexual harassment or assault on social media.

[VIDEO: Rep. Don Shooter expelled from AZ House]

Rep. Michelle Ugenti-Rita then publicly accused Shooter, fellow Republican, of propositioning her for sex years ago and repeatedly commenting on her breasts.

[ORIGINAL STORY: Powerful lawmaker accused of sexual harassment at AZ State Capitol]

Spurred by the movement that erupted after a New York Times expose about movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, other women came forward against Shooter at a dizzying pace - lobbyists, a newspaper publisher and other female lawmakers.

"This all began years ago when Mr. Shooter began making inappropriate comments and gestures to people and culminated today," Republican House Speaker J.D. Mesnard said after Shooter was booted out of office on a 56-3 vote. "Certainly the #MeToo movement and the greater awareness not only here but nationally over issues of sexual harassment and other similar offenses brought this to the forefront."

Other lawmakers facing similar allegations across the nation were stripped of leadership posts, resigned or announced they would not seek re-election.

A defiant Shooter did neither, although he was stripped of his committee leadership post.

[RAW VIDEO: Rep. Don Shooter responds to questions about sexual harassment investigation]

Shooter was a powerful figure as the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee for years before taking up the same role when he moved to the House in 2017. He spent many nights during the session being wined and dined by lobbyists at top-notch restaurants.

On the final night of the annual legislative session his office became a virtual bar as the liquor flowed freely and he donned a serape and sombrero or other costumes.

Mesnard had ordered an investigation in early November after Shooter had charged his initial accuser, Ugenti-Rita, with having an inappropriate relationship with a staffer and making crude comments herself. Slowly, over time, he apologized for what he called his "jarring, insensitive and demeaning" comments but argued that he never sought to touch anyone or have a sexual relationship with them.

[READ MORE: Probe finds Arizona lawmaker broke sex harassment rules]

The investigative report released Tuesday essentially cleared Ugenti-Rita but found Shooter had engaged in "repeated pervasive conduct (that) created a hostile work environment for his colleagues and those with business before the Legislature."

[SPECIAL SECTION: Arizona Politics]

Mesnard recommended a formal censure, a step short of expulsion that is essentially a public shaming by vote of the House.

But hours before Thursday's scheduled censure debate, Shooter sent a letter accusing the investigators of whitewashing an allegation by a woman against another lawmaker that he claimed was far worse than his actions.

[RELATED: Rep. Shooter writes letter addressing sexual harassment allegations]

"I'm a big boy, I'm in the ring, you take your lick," he told The Associated Press "But that little girl, if she gets hurt because she did the right thing and so far she got kicked right in the teeth for doing the right thing, it ain't right."

Mesnard saw it as "nothing more than an effort to use this individual as a pawn," and called for an immediate expulsion vote, saying he had talked to the woman and she rejected Shooter's contentions.

[RAW VIDEO: Don Shooter addresses hearing prior to his expulsion]

"So he was not in fact standing up for the victim but rather further victimizing this person," Mesnard said.

Mesnard also asked Shooter to turn over for any weapons he had with him. Mesnard said Shooter turned over a handgun.

[READ MORE: Gun removed from Don Shooter's office before expulsion vote]

As the House began a historic vote to expel a sitting lawmaker - the first in Arizona's Legislature in nearly three decades - Ugenti-Rita and women from both parties gathered in a circle, holding hands and hugging.

Shooter spoke first, voting against the measure and saying that while he had said and done stupid things, "I stood on the carpet, I took it like a man, I apologized."

[RELATED: Shooter says he is 'free at last' after expulsion from state House of Reps]

"I have faithfully executed my duties," he said. "I've never taken bribes, I've never considered one way or another except on the merits of a bill."

He then dropped his microphone, leaving the chamber. Within about an hour, his expulsion was final. Another Republican will be appointed to fill out the remaining 11 months of his term.

Timeline: Arizona lawmaker's expulsion for sexual misconduct

Republican Arizona Rep. Don Shooter has become the first state lawmaker in the U.S. to be expelled since the #MeToo movement emerged last year. Here's a look at the developments since last fall that lead to his dramatic removal from office:

Oct. 19, 2017

Republican Arizona state Rep. Michelle Ugenti-Rita writes on her Facebook page about being subjected to sexual harassment after arriving at the state Capitol, receiving "aggressive and brazen" sexual advances and lewd comments about her body and appearance from male colleagues.

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Nov. 8, 2017

House Speaker J.D. Mesnard announces he's launching an investigation into complaints of harassment by Ugenti-Rita and another female lawmaker. The move comes a day after Ugenti-Rita gave a televised interview naming Shooter as her harasser.

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Nov. 10, 2017

The Arizona Republic's then-Publisher Mi-Ai Parrish writes an online column about being subjected to sexual harassment by Shooter.

She says during a March 2016 meeting with Shooter, the lawmaker told her he had done everything on his bucket list, "except that one thing." When asked what he hadn't done, he replied: "Those Asian twins in Mexico."

Later that same day, Mesnard suspends Shooter. The speaker says that because of the number and nature of the allegations, outside investigators are being used.

Gov. Doug Ducey expresses support for the move, saying there can be no tolerance for sexual harassment.

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Jan. 9, 2018

Shooter apologizes to fellow House members at the start of mandatory sexual harassment training required in large part because of the misconduct complaints against him. The lawmaker from the southern Arizona city of Yuma acknowledges his conduct was "jarring, insensitive and demeaning" but says he never tried to touch anyone or have a sexual relationship with them.

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Jan. 31, 2018

Mesnard announces that the investigation of Shooter shows he violated the chamber's sexual harassment policies and the lawmaker is permanently removed from all committee assignments.

The speaker says he'll seek to have Shooter formally censured by the full chamber and will launch a formal House human resources department and ban drinking on House property. Shooter has been known for holding booze-fueled parties in his office at the end of legislative sessions.

Shooter says in a statement that he's reviewing the report and that the process has been "humbling and eye-opening."

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Feb. 1, 2018

The Arizona House of Representatives votes to kick Shooter out of the chamber after a report ordered by legislative leaders of his own party showed he engaged in a pattern of sexual harassment toward women.

Although Mesnard initially sought a censure, the speaker says he moved to expel Shooter after receiving a letter from him that he said represented a clear act of retaliation and harassment against another legislator.

"I've said stupid things, I've done stupid things," Shooter said as the vote got underway. "I stood on the carpet, I took it like a man, I apologized. Can't go back to the past, I can't change it, but I can change the future if given the opportunity."

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