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NC lawmaker resigns after cyberstalking plea: ‘Marriage was a nightmare,’ says wife.

A state lawmaker who pleaded guilty to cyberstalking in a case involving his estranged wife announced Wednesday he will resign.

Rep. Cody Henson’s statement on Facebook follows reports from court proceedings in western North Carolina, including that the Republican will undergo domestic violence abuser treatment, Carolina Public Press reported Tuesday.

Among those reports: Henson once threw a full beer can at his wife in front of their son while she was pregnant and, after one heated argument, posted photos of his guns on social media, among other incidents, N.C. Assistant Attorney General Boz Zellinger said.

“I realize I was overly zealous in trying to save my marriage and mistakes were made,” Henson said Wednesday on his Facebook page. “I had no intention of hurting anyone, including my estranged wife. Many of the statements made in court yesterday by the assistant attorney general and circulated by the media were based on false and unsubstantiated claims by my estranged wife. However, I do not wish to rehash this any further. That matter is settled.”

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State Rep. Cody Henson, R-Transylvania, center, exits the Transylvania County Courthouse in Brevard after a first appearance on a cyberstalking charge Thursday, as WLOS reporter Justin Hinton, left, and camera operator Todd Robbins attempt to interview him. Frank Taylor Carolina Public Press

Henson accepted a deal with the N.C. Department of Justice known as deferred prosecution, which allows the misdemeanor charge eventually to be dismissed, according to the CPP report. He must first complete 18 months of probation, finish the abuser treatment class, get a mental health evaluation and a substance misuse assessment.

Henson remains under a domestic violence protective order keeping him from contacting his estranged wife, Kelsey Meece, CPP said. He is not allowed access to firearms during his probation.

The state planned to allow Henson to travel on legislative business despite probation.

In a prepared statement Tuesday, his attorney avoided the word “guilty” and instead called the plea deal a “conditional discharge agreement,” CPP said. The lawmaker “intends to fulfill his commitment to represent his district and will not be resigning from office,” the statement said.

On Wednesday, Henson wrote that he submitted his resignation to be effective at noon Friday.

“As we look to the future,” he wrote, “it is evident that at this time I am needed at home to focus on my two beautiful children. They have been my whole world since they were born. Right now, I believe that what is best for my children is that I focus my attention on them.”

N.C. House Speaker Tim Moore declined to comment and said he wants to review the plea agreement first, CPP reported.

As he left the courthouse, CPP asked Henson if he could continue to effectively represent his district, which includes Transylvania and Polk counties and part of Henderson County. He did not respond.

A trained killer

Zellinger handled the prosecution because the local district attorney recused himself, having supported Henson politically, CPP reported.

Describing his behavior since 2017, Zellinger said Henson told his wife 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, CPP said Zellinger told the court.

After they broke up, he repeatedly texted her at all hours despite being asked to stop and made disturbing threats, CPP reported.

Henson, now in his second term in the state House of Representatives, said earlier this year that he would not seek reelection in 2020.

Meece told the court she does not object to the plea agreement.

“For me, this process has been exhausting,” she said, according to CPP. “Our marriage was a nightmare. There were lies, infidelity, manipulation and the list goes on. I don’t want to rehash and relive the past but Cody has put me through pure hell and made me feel completely powerless and trapped.”

Meece claimed victory in the case, reported CPP, which quoted her saying, “Despite every effort by Cody, his family, and the deep-seeded, right-wing brotherhood that controls this county and state, I am still here.”

A version of this article first appeared in Carolina Public Press, an independent, nonprofit news organization.

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Josh Shaffer covers Wake County and federal courts. He has been a reporter for The News & Observer since 2004 and previously wrote a column about unusual people and places.
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