Rod Jetton discusses his downfall, says he's returning to his religious upbringing

Sunday, July 31, 2011

After many self-inflicted wounds, Rod Jetton's life is healing, he says.

Approaching two years after accusations surfaced of an assault on a Sikeston, Mo., woman during a sexual encounter with her, the former Missouri House speaker wrote a blog about his personal and political free fall at therecoveringpolitician.com. It appeared July 22 and was the first time Jetton had addressed the issue publicly.

Jetton pleaded guilty May 27 to a reduced charge of misdemeanor assault with the admission he struck a woman in the face and choked her during sex at her Sikeston home in November 2009. The victim had previously testified in court that after finishing one glass of wine she started to drift in and out of consciousness.

Attorneys for the victim and for Jetton said they were ready to move on once the guilty plea was reached. That appears to be the case for Jetton, in some respects. While he still carries a tattered reputation, he says his life has become much more content recently.

Jetton, divorced about a month before the assault, has married again. He now works at a growing civil engineering company in Poplar Bluff, Mo., where he helps with sales, marketing and public relations plans.

A tumultuous era began, according to his blog, once he was elected as a state representative. Over time, his political pursuits and self-indulgence ruled, and ruined, his life.

In his personal essay, he detailed some of the reasons behind his rise and fall, how he got caught up in the power of political prestige and started believing the good things people were saying about him. The blog did not contain specifics regarding the assault situation, but he said he was living a double life.

Since the time his assault became public, Jetton says he was humbled and has since returned to his religious upbringing. His father is a Baptist minister who gave his son a lot of spiritual support when he hit bottom.

When asked by the Southeast Missourian at what point he felt he had to change his ways, Jetton said he had wanted to change long before the assault issue became public but did not do so.

"I made that decision many times when my marriage was falling apart or I was doing things my parents taught me not to do, prior to the assault charge, but I didn't act on that decision," he said in an email interview. "Clearly, when I called my dad and told him about the arrest it brought my mistakes out in the open and forced me to deal with my problems instead of trying to fix everything myself. Dad's faith and love helped me turn my life back to Christ. The personal and political problems I had been dealing with were hurting me because I was trying to handle everything myself instead of relying on Jesus, my family or friends to help.

"I was living a hypocritical life trying to be two people and deep down I wanted to get back on the right path, but I just didn't do it. The troubles God allowed my choices to put me in, gave me no other option but to fall on my knees and ask for help. While it was embarrassing and painful, getting things out in the open and not having to live a double life was a big relief."

Jetton acknowledged that some will question the sincerity of his renewed religious convictions.

"There is not much I can do to change my reputation," he said. "I made mistakes, I was a hypocrite. I only pray that my mistakes and bad example will not hinder folks from believing that God exists and that he can improve their life."

Jetton said he was approached by the founder of Recovering Politicians website to share his story, but there was no specific reason for the timing of his blog. He said he decided to join the site as a contributor to share honest opinions from those who had been on the inside and still want to have an effect on public policy outside of office.

Jetton said he's talked with "hundreds of folks and privately shared my story" about how his troubles returned him to his faith.

Judge Fred Copeland suspended the imposition of sentence, placing Jetton, 43, on probation and requiring him to pay restitution of $950 to the victim. He originally had faced felony assault charges. Jetton was also ordered to pay court costs of $414.50 to the New Madrid County law enforcement fund. Upon payment of the restitution and court costs, Jetton was to be released from probation, according to the plea agreement. His attorney said at the time that Jetton had paid the restitution and court costs following the court proceedings.

Jetton served as state representative for Missouri's 156th District from 2001 to 2009. He was speaker of the Missouri House of Representatives from 2005 to 2009, when he left because of term limits.

Jetton employed a brash style while House speaker, including calling out the governor during a speech. Some of Jetton's political methods are explained in an accompanying blog by former house member Jeff Smith.

bmiller@semissourian.com

388-3625

Pertinent address:

Marble Hill, MO

Poplar Bluff, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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