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VOL. 36 | NO. 39 | Friday, September 28, 2012

State Rep. Jim Cobb arrested on assault charge

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NASHVILLE (AP) - State Rep. Jim Cobb was arrested Tuesday on an assault charge after a woman in a wheelchair said she felt physically threatened by the Spring City Republican on the day of the primary election.

The grand jury indictment handed down Monday said Cobb caused Wanda Sue Goins, a supporter of his GOP primary opponent Ron Travis, to reasonably fear imminent bodily injury.

Goins told sheriff's deputies that Cobb came to the polling place she was attending and tried to knock down a Travis sign. According to the incident report, he pointed his finger at her and "told her how sorry she was going to be for being a Ron Travis person."

Goins was afraid Cobb was going to hit her, according to the report.

Cobb denied the allegations in a phone interview.

"This was all fabricated, it was politically motivated," he said. "This will come clean, because I have witnesses who saw exactly what happened. I never got close to that woman, I never touched that woman."

Cobb, a three-term House member, lost to Travis by 103 votes on Aug. 2.

Reached by telephone, Goins declined to discuss specifics.

"I wouldn't say I was pleased," she said. "It was a very unfortunate incident."

A spokesman for the Rhea County Sherriff's Office said Cobb was booked on the misdemeanor charge and released on a $3,000 bond. His arraignment is scheduled for Friday.

Cobb is the third Republican state lawmaker indicted in the past year. All of them were committee chairmen at the time of their arrests.

Rep. Curry Todd of Collierville has pleaded not guilty to drunken driving and gun charges following his arrest in Nashville in October 2011. Rep. David Hawk of Greeneville has also pleaded not guilty to domestic assault charges filed in March.

House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, in a statement called the circumstances surrounding Cobb's arrest "unfortunate."

A Harwell spokeswoman didn't immediately address questions about whether Cobb will remain chairman of the House Government Operations Committee, though she noted he hasn't been attending joint hearings with the Senate at the legislative office complex this week.

It's not the first time Cobb has become the subject of a legal investigation. Nashville prosecutor Torry Johnson investigated a complaint against Cobb for placing a recorder under the desk of an assistant in 2008.

Johnson said Cobb "demonstrated very questionable judgment," but ultimately decided against pursuing charges because the recordings only captured a brief muffled conversation and the sounds of a cleaning crew at work.

Cobb initially told the Chattanooga Times Free Press that he had placed the recorder under the desk as a joke. But investigators said he acknowledged he wanted a record of the aide's conversations with constituents, "because he suspected the assistant may have been acting in an unprofessional manne r."