Republican State Representative Robert Goforth — who announced he would challenge Gov. Matt Bevin in the 2019 gubernatorial primary — is denying allegations that he sexually assaulted a Somerset woman a decade ago.
The allegations emerged over the weekend when Alicia Whitaker, a former Pulaski County resident, posted a petition on MoveOn.org, claiming she was a victim of an assault initiated by Goforth.
Whitaker said in the petition, and told the Commonwealth Journal, that she was assaulted by Goforth and one of his business associates in "late 2008 or early 2009" in an apartment over Hometown Pharmacy on Bogle Street — a business Goforth owned at the time.
Goforth, 42, initially declined comment when reached on Saturday. Today, he issued a statement to the Commonwealth Journal denying Whitaker's allegation. Goforth did admit, however, that he was involved in a "consensual relationship" with Whitaker.
"Over a decade ago, as an unmarried man, I had a brief, consensual relationship with Alicia Whitaker," Goforth said. "Having long since moved on with my life, I believed she had as well. Although Alicia and I have not had contact for years, I have received kind messages and even support for my gubernatorial campaign from her family in recent weeks. So, this came as quite a surprise.
"The allegations that I assaulted Ms. Whitaker are categorically false. I have never assaulted anyone," Goforth added. "My wife, Ashley, and I, do not take these allegations lightly and are troubled deeply by them. As a husband and father, sexual assault and violence against women sickens me, and I condemn any such acts in the strongest possible terms."
Whitaker said she had a consensual sexual relationship with Goforth, but during an encounter about 10 years ago, Goforth forced her to engage in oral sex with a business associate, Michael Ingram.
"I begged (Goforth) to stop; I did not want to engage in sexual acts with Ingram," Whitaker said in an email sent to an attorney and shared with the Commonwealth Journal. "But Goforth shoved my head down on Ingram ... He held me by the hair and laughed as he forced me into the act."
The Commonwealth Journal is seeking comment from Ingram or his legal representation. Ingram is currently serving an eight-year sentence at the federal correction institution in Manchester, Kentucky. In July 2017, Ingram pleaded guilty to Conspiracy to Distribute Oxycodone and Money Laundering in connection to his operation of Hometown Pharmacy of Georgetown.
According to a 2017 news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Ingram admitted in federal court to illegally distributing and dispensing oxycodone by filling forged prescriptions from outside Kentucky. He used the proceeds of those sales to purchase the property for an additional business, Hometown Pharmacy of Cynthiana.
That case pertained only to Ingram and his pharmacies; Goforth, by that time, was no longer involved in Ingram’s business dealings.
In his statement to the Commonwealth Journal today, Goforth distanced himself from Ingram.
"I also want to be clear that Michael Ingram and I were friends and he did work for me a decade ago. His Hometown Pharmacy has absolutely no connection to any of my pharmacies," Goforth said. "There are HomeTown Pharmacies across this state as it is not a trademarked name, but simply the 'doing business as' name I used for Goforth Pharmacy, LLC. Mr. Ingram and I have not talked to each other for four years."
Whitaker said another incident with Goforth occurred at his pharmacy when she went to pick up over-the-counter medicine for one of her children.
"On another occasion, during business hours, he tried to force me to have sex with him," Whitaker said. "Goforth told me he had the medicine upstairs. He asked me to come with him to get it."
Whitaker said that once they were in the upstairs apartment, Goforth "grabbed my wrist and was verbally trying to convince me to have sex with him."
"(Goforth) held the door shut, refusing to let me leave until I had sex with him," Whitaker said.
Whitaker said she broke away from Goforth and got on the deck outside the apartment. She said Goforth let her go when she threatened to scream for help.
Whitaker is currently seeking legal counsel and said she did not attempt to file charges against Goforth or Ingram in 2009 because she was married with three children.
"I confided this to several of my close friends," Whitaker said. "I thought going to the police would just add insult to injury."
The Commonwealth Journal has spoken with one of the friends Whitaker confided with at the time. He requested anonymity but said he recalled Whitaker's account of the encounter with Goforth and Ingram.
"(Whitaker) was in tears," the friend said. "She said she was clear that she did not want to have sex with (Ingram). But they ignored her and forced her. She was terribly upset."
Whitaker said she became acquainted with Goforth in 2008 when the future state representative lived in a house next to her parents in eastern Pulaski County.
Whitaker said she originated the online petition because she doesn't feel Goforth "is fit to govern."
"The state, and population, must be protected from this predator who feels entitled to women’s bodies and now the power to govern them," Whitaker said in the online petition. "It’s time to step up and say the end of the road is near for Goforth and his campaign to govern this great state."
The petition was taken down by MoveOn for review on Saturday evening, but was back online Wednesday morning with a disclaimer saying the MoveOn "would not promote the petition beyond hosting it on our site."
Goforth gave no indication today he intended to end his candidacy for governor.
"I chose to run for governor because I want to give back to this state and make Kentucky a better place for working families, small business owners and seniors," Goforth said. "And while I had hoped my plans for a better Commonwealth would be the focus, I am aware of today's political climate. I am responding now to these accusations honestly and will continue to be honest with you throughout this campaign."