Prosecutors have charged Republican Congressman Steve Watkins with three felonies stemming from questions about whether he violated any election laws when he first reported using a UPS Store address in Topeka instead of his home.
Topeka television stations KSNT and WIBW reported that Shawnee County District Attorney Mike Kagay filed three felony charges and one misdemeanor count against Watkins over questions about his residency. They are:
- Interference with law enforcement (felony).
- Voting without being qualified (felony).
- Unlawful advance voting (felony).
- Failing to notify the department of motor vehicles of changing his address. (misdemeanor).
The charges were announced shortly before Watkins and his Republican rivals, state Treasurer Jake LaTurner and former Secretary of Administration Dennis Taylor were set to appear in a televised debate in Topeka.
They come just three weeks before the Republican primary for Congress in the 2nd Congressional District in which Watkins is trying to turning back a challenge from LaTurner and Taylor in the Aug. 4 primary.
There no federal statutes or rules of the House of Representatives that directly affect the status of a member of Congress who has been indicted for a crime that constitutes a felony, according to the Congressional Research Service.
No rights or privileges are forfeited under the Constitution, statutory law, or the Rules of the House merely upon an indictment for an offense, prior to an establishment of guilt under the judicial system, according to CRS.
Under House rules, an indicted member of congress may continue to participate in congressional proceedings and considerations.
Members of Congress do not automatically forfeit their offices upon conviction of a crime that constitutes a felony, the Congressional Research Service reporys.
“No express constitutional disability or “disqualification” from Congress exists for the conviction of a crime, other than under the Fourteenth Amendment for certain treasonous conduct by someone who has taken an oath of office to support the Constitution,” according to CRS.
Members of the House are, however, instructed by House Rules not to vote in committee or on the House floor once they have been convicted of a crime for which the punishment may be two or more years’ imprisonment.