At the same time ex-Congressman Tom Garrett has been mounting a political comeback, he and his wife Flanna Sheridan have been embroiled in bitter divorce proceedings, with court filings claiming the Republican strangled Sheridan, attempted suicide and thought of ways to kill his chief of staff.
In a 2019 complaint filed by Garrett, his counsel wrote that Sheridan abandoned him “without just cause or provocation.”
A counterclaim by Sheridan’s counsel includes a long list of allegations against her husband, including that he “is guilty of both physical and emotional abuse.”
Garrett, who won the GOP nomination and will almost certainly be elected to the heavily Republican 56th District’s seat in the Virginia House of Delegates this fall, has denied nearly all the claims.
More than 1,000 pages organized into five thick folders at the Louisa County Courthouse document the ugly allegations.
The Republican nominee’s counsel has submitted a motion for a gag order, asserting his wife was engaged “in a campaign to discredit and criticize” him.
In a sworn affidavit, one witness writes that Sheridan told her “that she wanted to ruin Tom, bankrupt him, take all of his money, and do anything she could to prevent him from making money.”
In Sheridan’s counterclaim, her counsel outlines a number of violent incidents.
Among them are allegations that Garrett twice struck her in the head during their marriage and that he “has a history of physically pinning [Sheridan] to the ground, pushing her, and punching holes in the walls.”
The counterclaim also alleges that the politician often threatened suicide.
In August 2017, for instance, Sheridan, who was eight months pregnant at the time, went for a 30-minute walk to take a breather from an argument she was having with her husband, the counterclaim says.
When she returned home, she said she found Garrett in the car with the engine running and the garage door sealed.
“I told you I was going to kill myself if you left (go for the walk),” the filing claims Garrett said. His counsel denies this.
Garrett was a sitting U.S. congressman at the time representing Virginia’s 5th District in the House. Prior to that, he served six years in the Virginia state Senate.
His political career was put on pause in May 2018 when he announced that he is an alcoholic and that he would not run for reelection.
“Life is about priorities and values, and for the most part, I am proud of mine. But there’s one area where I haven’t been honest,” Garrett said in a video announcement at the time, visibly choked up. “The tragedy is that any person, Republican, Democrat or independent, who has known me any period of time and has any integrity knows two things: I am a good man and I am an alcoholic.”
Both parties in the recent legal proceedings agree that Garrett stopped drinking at that time. But what triggered that decision depends on who is telling the story.
In Sheridan’s telling, it was Mother’s Day 2018, and the family was on a trip to New Orleans. Garrett “drank himself into a fiery rage,” her counterclaim reads, and then tried to strangle her as their infant daughter was sleeping next to her.
“In a long line of physical and emotional abuses by Husband against Wife, that apparently prompted Husband to publicly announce he was seeking treatment for his alcoholism,” reads the counterclaim.
Garrett, however, says the last night he touched alcohol was some 10 days later, when he fired his then-chief of staff.
“I still have not had so much as one drink since the night that I fired Jimmy Keady,” Garrett responded in court documents, adding that he terminated Keady because Keady “hated Flanna and she hated him.”
A person familiar with the matter told The Daily Progress that Keady was not fired but resigned.
The next spring, nearly one year after Garrett claims to have stopped drinking, he and Sheridan were traveling together in Belgrade, Serbia.
There, according to Sheridan’s filing, he disclosed to her that he was thinking of ways to kill Keady because he “blamed him for ruining his political career.” That same day, Garrett “threatened to jump off the balcony” at a Serbian shopping mall, according to the filing.
Garrett’s counsel denied both allegations.
In explaining his exit from Congress, Garrett wrote in a court filing that after he fired Keady, his ex-chief of staff “concocted a story which ran in Politico.”
That May 2018 story is headlined: “Ex-aides say congressman made them his servants.” In it, Politico reported that the Garretts assigned aides “mundane” tasks such as grocery shopping and caring for their dog.
“The Majority Leader called me prior of me even knowing about the story to say he could help if any bad things came to pass,” Garrett wrote in his filing. “This is essentially how I learned of the accusations.”
At the time the story was published, the U.S. House and Senate were in Republican hands: Paul Ryan of Wisconsin leading the lower chamber, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky leading the upper.
In its motion for a gag order, Garrett’s counsel wrote there was “good cause to seal the court’s file, so that the contents therein are not available to members of the public or the press.”
With no gag order, his counsel said it was concerned Garrett’s “ability to obtain future employment will be negatively affected.”
The general election will take place this November. Currently there is no Democrat challenging Garrett in his district, according to the Virginia Public Access Project.