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Court documents allege years of domestic violence by expelled former ND MP

MINOT – On March 4, 2021, the North Dakota House of Representatives paused its busy legislative schedule to consider harassment allegations against state Rep. Luke Simons of Dickinson.

The allegations against Simons spanned years and involved not only Bismarck Capitol staff and members of the media, but also some of his legislative colleagues, such as Grand Forks Rep. Emily O'Brien and Casselton Rep. Brandy Pyle, both Republicans. Ultimately, the House voted to expel Simons from the House, something that had never happened in the state's history.

This exclusion has become one of the fault lines within North Dakota's Republican Party, separating traditional conservatives from an emerging faction of MAGA populists close to former President Donald Trump.

Many outspoken members of the populist faction – including former Rep. Rick Becker, who is currently running for the U.S. House of Representatives and spoke out against Simons' expulsion from the House during a 2021 floor debate – have claimed that Simons was wrongfully removed from office and was not afforded due process.

Now Simons, who remains politically active and, among other things, recently defended a Williston-area Republican lawmaker who refused to resign after hurling homophobic slurs at police officers during a drunken driving arrest, is accused of years of mental and physical abuse of his wife and children, according to court documents in a divorce case his wife filed in June 2023. The documents, in which she is the plaintiff, show the two have been living apart since October 2021.

Forum Communications Company does not disclose the names of victims of sexual assault and domestic violence.

“Throughout our marriage, Luke has assaulted me and our children,” the plaintiff said in a statement filed in the case on March 1, 2024. “There are social services reports documenting Luke hitting our children with a 2×4 and extension cords and also using a crowbar for punches. He has driven into me with an ATV, assaulted me until I was on the ground, punched me in the nose, and broken my glasses and phone.”

“Luke punched the walls of our home and choked me until I passed out,” the statement continued. “We separated after a serious domestic violence incident in October 2021 in which Luke attacked me and bit one of our daughters, requiring the intervention of Luke's father and our church.”

The case file includes photographs of the bite wound. The plaintiff claims Simons bit another of her children because he was frustrated while teaching that child to drive.

One piece of evidence in the case is a deposition from Simons' wife from November 2021, just months after Luke Simons was expelled from the legislature. Titled “My Story,” it contains allegations of abuse made by Luke Simons against his wife dating back to their wedding night in 1999.

The plaintiff describes it as “such a happy but also scary time for a young lady” and states that she “did something wrong or said something wrong and upset him”, after which “he pushed her out of bed and I slept on the floor”, “with no clothes on and no blanket”.

She also claims that Luke raped her in the basement of his parents' house after a Wednesday church meeting and physically abused her during the more than 18 years they lived together on their ranch – from kicking to punching to choking and slapping. “I found out that chains really hurt and even leave chain-shaped bruises,” she wrote.

She claims Luke accused her of being deficient in her “Bible studies” because she “skipped the part about wives being subordinate to their husbands.” She says Luke claims she “spoke with a bad attitude, just like liberal Democrats.”

Under a section of the document titled “Reasons for leaving,” the plaintiff wrote, “I can't remember the last time I felt 100 percent safe and secure in my own home.” She also wrote that she wanted to “get away from Luke and his strange ideas about women and girls and their proper place.”

In his own court documents, Luke Simons does not deny that there was abuse in the marriage.

“Plaintiff alleges that Defendant has been abusive throughout the parties' relationship,” a pretrial brief filed by Luke Simons's legal counsel states. “Defendant does not deny that abuse occurred, but denies that it occurred to the extent alleged by Plaintiff. He admits that he has made mistakes in the past and has sought counseling to overcome his problems.”

At least one member of Simons' own family also admits that abuse occurred in the relationship. One of the pieces of evidence in the plaintiff's filing is a text message that Ben Simons, Luke Simons' brother, sent to the couple's children in which he speaks of “wrongs” committed by his brother, despite his opposition to the divorce.

“Your mother is still in the process of divorcing your father,” he wrote in the Aug. 10, 2023 text message. “There is not a single spiritual leader in her life who approves of this. Your mother is wrong. I know your father was very wrong for many years of your childhood, but now it is your mother who is in the wrong.”

“I wish so much that your whole family hadn't covered up your father's wrongs, and maybe your family could have been helped sooner,” continued Ben Simons, a former Republican candidate for Congress. “I was so angry at your father when I found out that I couldn't even talk to him. Now I don't want to cover up what your mother is doing wrong.”

I sent a list of questions to Jamie Haynes, Luke Simons' attorney in this case. I asked him which specific allegations of abuse Luke Simons denies.

Haynes told me his client declined to answer. “This is a private family matter involving children. Luke will not defend himself. He loves his family and hopes this can be resolved in the future.”

Sandra Kuntz, the lawyer representing the plaintiff in these proceedings, declined to comment on behalf of her client.

Anna Harden

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