Letter to Ethics Committee alleges Cory McCray threw chair in Annapolis office and intimidated Out For Justice’s Nicole Hanson

Del. Cory McCray

Maryland State Delegate for District 45 and Senate candidate Cory McCray threw a chair and intimidated organizer Nicole Hanson in his Annapolis office last year, Hanson alleges.

In a letter dated April 3, 2017 that was sent to the Joint Committee of Legislative Ethics, Hanson, the executive director of Out For Justice, an ex-offender advocacy organization, outlined the behavior in great detail.

The incident happened around 5 p.m. on March 28, 2017, in McCray’s office. Hanson wrote that also present were Job Opportunities Task Force lobbyist Caryn York, Delegate Antonio Hayes, and members of Delegate Hayes’ and McCray’s staff—Hanson was present, she writes, because McCray allowed her to use “the lounge area that he shares with another delegate,” when she was in Annapolis.

It began when Hanson and McCray discussed something McCray had said which she took issue with—“that he believed that poor people were poor because they would not save money,” she wrote.

“We began to talk about the root causes of poverty, and I informed Delegate McCray that I disagreed with his statement, and gave him examples of the institutional barriers that make it difficult for poor people to save money and afford bail,” Hanson wrote. “Delegate McCray started referencing the amount of rent that was necessary as a single person in Maryland. I disputed his characterization as an inaccurate representation of constituents in his district, referencing my own experience, which is that my husband and I, who are both hardworking and employed people, are living paycheck to paycheck despite our modest habits.”

Hanson stresses that while “everyone was passionate about the topic . . . it was not a heated argument,” but that “all of a sudden, without prompting or provocation,” McCray exploded. What follows is a lengthy excerpt from Hanson’s letter:

“McCray inexplicably leapt out of his seat, stated ‘Fuck this; I’m sick of this shit.’ Simultaneously, he picked up his chair and threw it behind him. It slammed against the wall and his staff member’s desk but did not break. I was still sitting and surprised by his reaction. He rushed toward me, and, standing over me, pointed with his finger in my face and repeated ‘I’m sick of this shit.’ He then stated, ‘You are always fucking with a nigger’s head. I know when people are trying to get in my head.’ Delegate Hayes, at that point, put his arm in between Delegate McCray’s chest and my face to try and diffuse the situation. I stood up, telling Delegate McCray, ‘You don’t scare me.’ While I said that, Delegate McCray took Delegate Hayes by the arms and pushed him out of the way and shook him, stating ‘get out [of] my way.’ Ms. York returned to the room at this point, asking what the commotion was. He stated, to the room, ‘I know when somebody’s fucking with my head; stop fucking with my head.’ He then picked back up the chair. Ms. York was hysterical and told him to put the chair down. Delegate McCray refused to be calmed down, stating, ‘get the fuck out my office, I know when someone’s getting in my head, and I’m sick of her trying to get in my head. She’s putting words in my fucking mouth.’ I replied that I was not putting words in his mouth, but simply responding to the comments he made. He eventually put the chair down and Ms. York was able to convince him to go into his office and calm down.”

On April 27, 2017, the Joint Committee of Legislative Ethics sent a letter to Hanson verifying that they received her Apr. 3 letter and though they ultimately dismissed the complaint because it is “not within the technical jurisdiction of the Joint Committee” they forwarded it to the office of current Speaker of the Maryland House of Delegates, Michael E. Busch and said McCray’s actions as described, “breached the standards of conduct expected of members of the General Assembly.”

When the Beat called Busch’s office, they seemed unaware of the complaint but said they would look into it and get back to us soon.

Hanson went over what happened today with the Beat, acting out the confrontation. Until McCray’s behavior, “it was a typical lobby day in Annapolis,” she said. Hanson also stressed that McCray is someone whose vote she needs and whose relationship she needed to maintain, but she couldn’t keep it quiet. Other women in Annapolis, like women everywhere, have experienced abuse and intimidation by men in power.

Over the phone this evening, McCray responded to the allegations. He confirmed that the argument did happen and that it began as “a conversation in reference to poverty,” but said “at no time did I throw a chair or [do] anything physical to her.” He said he later apologized to Hanson (Hanson doesn’t dispute that but says the apology, which came a while after the incident, was inadequate). McCray also said he later met with Speaker of the House Busch and the two discussed what he could learn from the incident.

“I wouldn’t do the things that’s being described or what you’re saying in reference to a woman because I have a seven and a nine year old, I have a wife,” he said. “And at the same time, I know that it’s my responsibility as a legislator to be able to act to a certain level, to a certain decorum, and I think that it was inappropriate for me to raise my voice.”

Hanson responded to McCray’s comments.

“I think it just exemplifies that he’s not apologetic for his actions,” Hanson said. “I would never lie about something like that. I would never say that somebody did something like that if he didn’t do it.”

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