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Garrett campaign donors footed bill for travel, hotel where alleged assault occurred

When then-Congressman Tom Garrett allegedly strangled his wife on Mother’s Day, he did so on a trip funded by campaign donors.

In a counterclaim filed by his wife Flanna Sheridan in the couple’s divorce proceedings, her counsel claims that after he “drank himself into a fiery rage,” he began to strangle Sheridan in a hotel bed as their infant daughter was sleeping next to her.

“Flanna was absolutely terrified,” a person familiar with the situation who agreed to speak anonymously said to The Daily Progress, adding that staffers in the Republican’s office were told of the incident. “He came back from a party, she was there and she woke up with him on top of her strangling her.”

A second person familiar with the incident, who again agreed to speak so long as their name was not used, told The Daily Progress that the alleged assault occurred in the early morning on Mother’s Day and that Sheridan chose not to file a police report.

“She was trying to protect him like a wife does. She thought she’d get him help, and she was trying to heal the marriage,” that person said. “But it happened, and I believe her and her stories never change.”

The alleged incident occurred in New Orleans in May 2018.

Documents obtained by The Daily Progress show that Garrett, then a U.S. representative for Virginia’s 5th District and now the Republican candidate for the 56th District seat in the state House of Delegates, was there on official business, and FEC filings indicate the trip was paid for by the Tom Garrett For Congress campaign.

The campaign purchased tickets with American Airlines for $991.41 each on May 3, according to FEC filings.

An American Airlines receipt obtained by The Daily Progress shows purchases for that same amount were made under Garrett and Sheridan’s name for a round trip flight from Washington to New Orleans. The scheduled return date way May 13, 2018.

Another document that appears to be a travel itinerary compiled by congressional staffers shows Garrett and Sheridan were scheduled to stay at a Hampton Inn from May 10 to May 13. Garrett’s campaign was charged on May 15 for lodging at a Hampton Inn, and a hotel receipt obtained by The Daily Progress shows a reservation for two adults and one child with a May 10 check-in.

Based on those receipts and court documents as well as the two people familiar with the incident, that appears to be the hotel where the alleged assault occurred.

An email and a flyer indicate Garrett was in town for a fundraiser and to speak at a panel during MJBizConNext, a cannabis business conference. Garrett was one of few Republicans at the time to advocate for marijuana legalization.

Chris West ran a government relations firm at the time and told The Daily Progress that putting a fundraiser together for Garrett was his idea. West drove Garrett and his wife all across that city that weekend.

“I was with the both of them, however long they were in town,” he said. “I remember driving him, his wife and a really tiny baby.”

In court filings, Sheridan’s counsel wrote that their daughter was less than one year old at the time of the assault.

It is not clear why Sheridan was brought on a trip that was paid for with campaign funds. But if the allegation are true, Garrett’s donors foot the bill for the flight to New Orleans and the hotel in which the assault occurred.

In a 2019 report, the House Ethics Committee described how Garrett did not take certain rules particularly seriously when he was in office.

According to the committee’s investigation, Garrett had his staffers help him move apartments, take his car for an oil change and spend hours assisting his wife during shopping trips among other “numerous requests to staff to perform errands and other tasks that were personal in nature.”

“Moreover, this pattern continued even after Representative Garrett was specifically advised of relevant rules and regulations by the Committee’s advice and education staff,” the report reads.

“His personal life was pretty intertwined with the office. I think anybody will tell you that,” a person who was familiar with the situation, who again agreed to speak anonymously, told The Daily Progress.

Staff was “picking up dry cleaning and driving his daughters around. He used the office as an extension of his personal life,” that individual said.

The person also added that, as established in the committee’s report, Garrett often drank in the office.

“There was plenty of drinking. He admitted that he was an alcoholic and that might be true, but it was also convenient timing,” the person said. “That was the excuse for why he was stepping down instead of the scandal about misusing the staff.”


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