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Does Rep. Steve Lebsock's Lie Detector Erase Allegations Of Sexual Harassment?

Dec 15, 2017
Originally published on June 30, 2018 11:01 am

Steve Lebsock, the state representative accused of sexual misconduct, has again gone on the offensive, this time to say that he's taken a lie detector test that clears him of any wrongdoing. A fellow Democrat, Rep. Faith Winter, is among two women to file formal complaints alleging sexual harassment against Lebsock, who is also campaigning to be Colorado's next treasurer. Lebsock has repeatedly said he deserves the chance to face his accuser and took the test because he said the complaint process is progressing too slowly.

“After waiting 26 days waiting to hear from the fact finder, I decided to get my story out,” said Lebsock at a press conference he arranged near his office across the street from the Capitol Thursday. “All of the allegations are false and I am willing to do a polygraph on all the false allegations.”

We first broke those formal allegations by Winter and Holly Tarry, a former lobbyist, who have both complained to legislative leaders that Lebsock propositioned them and acted inappropriately. Nine other women including Cassie Tanner and lobbyists Kristen Thomson and AnnMarie Jensen have also said Lebsock harassed and intimidated them.

The lie detector test is also known as a polygraph.

Lebsock paid $350 for the polygraph test. While he said it completely exonerates him, an expert in the validity of polygraph testing said the test "doesn't have much credibility."

“The tests themselves are not supported by scientific evidence," said William Iacono, a professor of psychology at the University of Minnesota.

He has served as an expert witness in 50 trials and published many papers on the topic.

"They have a weak foundation in terms of their accuracy," Iacono said, adding "and then one that is arranged by the person to serve their own benefit is one certainly that shouldn’t be trusted.”

He said there are some reasons to use the test, such as interrogations or for probation and parole supervision.

“Under the pressure of taking tests a lot of times, people will make admissions or confess things that they did," he said. "So it’s useful for gathering information and that’s about it." 

Winter answered Lebsock's press conference with one of her own at the Capitol. She has accused Lebsock of unwanted sexual advances, vulgar language and grabbing her arm and elbow to force her to leave a party with him at the end of the 2016 legislative session. She first spoke about the incident with us, then filed a formal complaint. She said Lebsock received a full copy of the complaint three weeks ago.

“One of the major flaws in the system is that the accused gets the accusers complaint before ever being questioned so they can craft responses,” Winter said.

She said that she stands by her account 100 percent. She dismissed Lebsock's polygraph test as a stunt.

“This is another abuse of power by Lebsock who is desperate to sway the investigation," she said. "Everyone knows what happened. He is a serial offender.”

An outside company, Rocky Mountain Employers Council, is investigating Lebsock.

For Lebsock, it's a political conspiracy to get rid of him. Gov. John Hickenlooper and House Speaker Crisanta Duran have called on Lebsock to step down. 

“I don’t tow the party line," Lebsock said. "I vote my conscience and what is best for Coloradans every single  time. You know what? That has upset a few folks around the Capitol. The establishment here in the Democratic Party have been offended frankly by some of my good votes."

Lebsock reiterated something he has said for weeks now: he won’t resign from office or drop out of the state treasurer’s race.

Lebsock’s assertion that the sexual harassment allegations against him are not being investigated quickly brought a response from the legislative contact person in the case, Majority Leader KC Becker: 

“Any pertinent information Rep. Lebsock can provide regarding the accusations against him will be forwarded to the independent investigator,” Becker said. “That investigation remains active. Rep. Lebsock was given an update on the status of the investigation as recently as Monday. It is typical in such cases for the investigator to talk to the accused after interviews with others have been completed. The investigator called Rep. Lebsock yesterday to schedule that interview, and as of this morning the investigator hadn’t heard back from him yet.”

Questions From Steve Lebsock's Lie Detector Test

Lebsock said he passed the following questions given to him by Accountability Polygraph Services, which noted he had "no significant reactions and produced overall positive scores on the following questions:"

Question 1: “In May 2016 at Stoney's bar, did you attempt to grab Faith's arm (including her elbow)?”

Lebsock: “No.”

Question 2: “In May 2016 at Stoney's bar, did you grab Faith's arm (including her elbow)?”

Lebsock: “No.”

Question 3: “In May 2016, at Stoney's bar, did you touch Faith's buttocks?”

Lebsock: “No.”

Editor's Note: This story was updated to include the response from Majority Leader KC Becker to Lebsock's statement that he has not heard from the investigators in his case. 

Capitol Coverage is a collaborative public policy reporting project, providing news and analysis to communities across Colorado for more than a decade. Fifteen public radio stations participate in Capitol Coverage from throughout Colorado.

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