Last week, Alabama Republican state Rep. Will Dismukes faced widespread calls for his resignation after he spoke at a celebration honoring the Ku Klux Klan’s first grand wizard during the same weekend that longtime congressman and civil rights leader John Lewis was memorialized nearby in Selma.
On Thursday, Dismukes was arrested on a felony charge of first-degree property theft. Prosecutors say the legislator stole thousands of dollars between 2016 and 2018 from a flooring company where he worked before his election to the Alabama House of Representatives.
“The warrant is signed for an amount exceeding $2,500. I will tell you the alleged amount is a lot more than that,” Montgomery County District Attorney Daryl Bailey told reporters Thursday of the sum Dismukes is alleged to have stolen.
Wearing a T-shirt, shorts and a mesh baseball hat, Dismukes turned himself in on Thursday afternoon before being released on bail. His attorney, Trey Norman, disputed the charges and questioned why the business waited years to bring the complaint to police.
“I don’t think any money was taken by anyone,” Norman told WSFA. “Second of all, if I worked for someone and they accused me of taking money, I wouldn’t expect four years to go by before anyone said anything to me.”
Dismukes refused to resign his seat after speaking at a July 25 party honoring the birthday of Nathan Bedford Forrest, a Confederate general and early leader of the KKK. The event at a private property called Little Dixie happened the same weekend as Lewis’s body arrived in Selma, the town where he was beaten by police while marching with civil rights protesters on “Bloody Sunday.” Lewis died last month at age 80.
But on July 29, Dismukes did resign from his job as a pastor at a rural Southern Baptist church. Five other local Southern Baptist leaders also put out a statement in the wake of his resignation to “reaffirm our opposition to any kind of racism.”
Now Dismukes faces a felony charge. Prosecutors said that Weiss Commercial Flooring in Montgomery, Ala., contacted them in May to allege that the state legislator had stolen from the company while he worked there.
“After countless hours of investigation, which consisted of witness interviews, obtaining bank records and gathering other evidence, a decision was made by myself and prosecutors in my office, along with these investigators, that probable cause existed that a crime had been committed,” Bailey said Thursday.
If Dismukes is convicted, he would automatically be removed from office, AL.com reported.
Alabama Republican Gov. Kay Ivey called the charges “disappointing.”
“If true, it is disappointing when a public official, elected with the confidence of the people, abuses that trust. I support the letter of the law, and no one is above it — especially those in public office,” she said in a statement to WSFA.
Alabama GOP Party Chairman Terry Lathan added on Twitter: “We expect our elected officials, regardless of Party, to follow the laws of our state and nation. No one is immune to these standards. It is very disappointing to hear of these allegations. This is now a legal matter and it must run its course.”