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NC Rep. Pleads Guilty To Cyberstalking, Doesn't Plan to Resign

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FRANK TAYLOR
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CAROLINA PUBLIC PRESS

BREVARD – N.C. Rep. Cody Henson, R-Transylvania, pleaded guilty to one count of cyberstalking in Transylvania County court Tuesday morning, accepting an agreement with the N.C. Department of Justice for deferred prosecution and 18 months of probation.

As part of the agreement, Henson will have to obtain a mental health assessment and follow-up treatment, complete a domestic violence abuser treatment class and complete a substance misuse assessment and follow up treatment. He will also be denied access to firearms throughout his probation. He already is under a domestic violence order of protection that prevents him having continued contact with his estranged wife, Kelsey Henson.

But the state also accepted a stipulation from Rep. Henson that despite his probation he be allowed to travel on legislative business. A prepared statement that Rep. Henson’s attorney provided to the news media said the lawmaker “intends to fulfill his commitment to represent his district and will not be resigning from office.”

Carolina Public Press asked Henson as he left the courthouse whether he believed that he could continue effectively representing his district, which includes Transylvania and Polk counties and part of Henderson County. He walked away without acknowledging the question.

Because the plea agreement is a deferred prosecution, if Henson successfully completes his probation and the requirements for assessment and treatment, the misdemeanor charge would be dismissed. The court set July 28, 2020, for Henson to reappear in consideration of that dismissal. His initial 12 months of probation will be supervised, but if he completes all requirements, the judge can make his final six months of probation unsupervised, Department of Justice spokesperson Laura Brewer told CPP.

Kelsey Henson addressed the court about her understanding of the plea agreement, to which she did not object. She called the process “exhausting.” But she said her marriage to Henson had become a “nightmare,” before the couple broke up last year.

She has previously described frustrations with trying to navigate the legal system in a county where her husband is a powerful political figure. At one point a magistrate refused to help her after looking up her husband online, she previously told CPP.

Addressing the court on Tuesday, Kelsey Henson claimed victory, saying she was beating the odds that had been stacked against her by the “deep-seeded right-wing brotherhood that controls this county and state.”

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Credit FRANK TAYLOR / CAROLINA PUBLIC PRESS
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CAROLINA PUBLIC PRESS
Kelsey Henson, center, talks with supporters and the news media as she leaves the Transylvania County Courthouse on Tuesday following her estranged husband's guilty plea to cyberstalking her.

N.C. Assistant Attorney General Boz Zellinger handled prosecution of Henson, because the local district attorney recused himself, having previously supported Henson politically. Zellinger told the court on Tuesday that the state agreed to the conditions of the settlement in large part because Kelsey Henson wanted Rep. Henson to get personal help so that he could be involved in the lives of their two children.

Zellinger also described Cody Henson’s erratic behavior since 2017. In one case he had screamed at Kelsey and thrown a full beer can at her in front of their son while she was pregnant. He told her that he was a trained killer, referring to his military experience and bragged that he would have a team of lawyers behind him due to his political clout, Zellinger told the court. He posted pictures of his guns to social media after one heated argument with his wife. After they broke up, he repeatedly texted her at all hours despite being asked to stop and made disturbing threats.

Henson’s guilty plea did not contest the allegations, but also did not enumerate admission to specific details. A prepared statement his attorney provided to the news media after the hearing said, “In entering the agreement, Rep. Henson does acknowledge, in hindsight, that he was overly zealous in his attempts to save his marriage. He does not regret attempting to keep his family intact, but does now see that his methods were wrong.”

Carolina Public Press is an independent, in-depth and investigative nonprofit news service for North Carolina.

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