Rep. Mark Samsel pleads down to lesser charges in substitute teaching outburst

Andrew Bahl
Topeka Capital-Journal
Rep. Mark Samsel plead guilty to three lesser charges Monday as part of a plea deal stemming from an April incident where Samsel allegedly assaulted two students in the classroom while substitute teaching.

Rep. Mark Samsel plead guilty to three lesser charges Monday as part of a plea deal stemming from an April incident where Samsel allegedly assaulted two students in the classroom while substitute teaching. 

The Wellsville Republican was charged with three counts of misdemeanor battery at the time, but he will instead plead guilty to three counts of misdemeanor disorderly conduct, which is described as using fighting words to "to arouse alarm, anger or resentment in others."

Those charges carry a combined 90-day jail sentence, which will be suspended under the terms of the agreement, with Samsel instead sentenced to a year of probation. He will be barred from contact with the victims and their families and will be required to write letters of apology to both students.

Related:Kansas Rep. Mark Samsel charged with battery in school-related incident

One student told a Franklin County sheriff deputy that Samsel manhandled him and kicked him in the groin, while a second student said Samsel grabbed her shoulders and made her uncomfortable. Videos also show him ranting about about God, suicide and the devil during the outburst.

Samsel already voluntarily surrendered his teaching license last month and confirmed he has been receiving mental health treatment in recent months, something which will be required to continue under the plea deal. The Wellsville school district also banned Samsel for school grounds shortly after he was charged.

A separate condition of the deal will bar Samsel from using social media accounts, including Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat, although there is an exception for legislative and campaign business.

Neither victim addressed the court during proceedings Monday, although they were given the opportunity to attend the virtual hearing. Samsel spoke only briefly during the 10-minute hearing, verbally accepting the terms of the deal before issuing a brief statement of apology.

"I just want to say I am sorry for what happened," Samsel said. "I never intended to hurt anybody. I appreciate what (Franklin County District Attorney Brandon) Jones and the state has done, as well as my attorney."

Samsel won't have to pay fines or retribution as part of the deal but will be on the hook for $263 in court costs and fees.

In a Facebook post last month, Samsel attributed the outburst to "an isolated episode of mania with psychotic features, caused by extreme stress, pressure, and agitation over a sustained period of time," including the annual legislative session.

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One of the alleged victims told a Franklin County Sheriff's office detective that Samsel "kicked him in the testicles" and said he was grabbed "with both hands" and "shoved against the wall."

The student also showed the detective "road rash ... approximately the size of a golf ball" on his right shoulder, as well as a scratch on his left shoulder.

Another student said Samsel grabbed her by the shoulders, asking her if she "had mental problems" and making her feel "scared" and that she thought "Mark was going to hurt her."

Samsel initially denied the allegations in an interview with a detective, affidavits show.

"I would honest to God never do anything to hurt him," Samsel allegedly told police, saying he thought the student bruises "softly" and that "God works in mysterious ways."

More:Affidavits: Kansas Rep. Mark Samsel allegedly kicked student in testicles and left him with bruises

Unclear whether Mark Samsel will resign seat after plea deal

It doesn't appear that Samsel will resign from his seat. In a statement, House Speaker Ron Ryckman, R-Olathe, didn't call for him to step down but said it is "up to the voters to determine if he's fit to serve."

"I'm glad to see Rep. Samsel taking responsibility for his actions and getting the help he needs," Ryckman said.

The speaker also pointed to House rules for investigating potential misconduct from members, although there doesn't yet appear to be any sort of formal complaint lodged against Samsel.

Misconduct proceedings against legislators are rare, although lawmakers did review charges against Rep. Aaron Coleman, D-Kansas City, Kan., last session before opting against formal discipline.

If a complaint is lodged, Ryckman would form a special committee to investigate the accusations and determine if discipline, including potential removal from office, would be warranted. 

Samsel didn't immediately return a phone call seeking comment.