Former lawmaker Atkins facing domestic violence charges again

John Atkins

DOVER — A former Delaware lawmaker is under arrest again, accused of assaulting and strangling his girlfriend in an argument over a text message.

John Atkins, 48, of Millsboro was charged last week with strangulation, a felony; and third-degree assault, which is a misdemeanor.
He was given a $7,000 unsecured bond. A preliminary hearing scheduled for Thursday was continued to a later date.

Atkins did not immediately return several telephone messages left for him on Thursday and Friday.

According to a police affidavit, the woman told investigators she and Atkins were at the beach on July 12 at the Indian River Inlet when Atkins became angry over a text message she got from her ex-boyfriend.

She said they began arguing, and Atkins put his hands on her neck and squeezed until she couldn’t breathe, and that she was hit under the eye while trying to get away. After the altercation, she took an Uber home, only to find Atkins waiting for her. She said they argued again and that Atkins hit her hat, causing it to hit her nose.

According to Delaware State Police Detective Alan Bluto’s affidavit, there was a noticeable red mark under the woman’s eye, as well as red marks around her neck. Atkins denied putting his hands on the woman’s neck but said he may have put his hands on her in self-defense, according to the affidavit.

Atkins has been repeatedly accused of violence against women.

In 2016, he was charged with offensive touching and criminal mischief after a domestic dispute. Those charges were dropped for insufficient evidence. The woman told police she had given Atkins permission to remove certain property from her Lewes home, but then discovered other items had been taken. Investigators said she jumped into Atkins’ truck and began trying to damage property in it. Atkins allegedly pushed the woman and kicked her car before leaving.

In 2014, Atkins was ordered to stay away from his estranged wife and their children after she complained of erratic and abusive behavior.

Two years earlier, Atkins resigned from the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee amid scrutiny of an angry email he sent to state police after being pulled over by a trooper for speeding. In the email, Atkins described the officer in derogatory terms, including “smart ass,” and implied that he would use his position as a lawmaker to harbor a grudge.

In 2007, Atkins, then a Republican, resigned from the House after using his legislative position to avoid a drunken driving arrest and being charged in a domestic dispute with his wife that same night.

The House Ethics Committee had moved to censure Atkins after he was stopped by police in Ocean City, Maryland in October 2006. Despite a preliminary breath test indicating a blood-alcohol content of 0.14, nearly twice the legal limit, Atkins — who was driving a truck with legislative license tag and offered the officers his legislative ID card along with his driver’s license — was neither cited nor arrested.

Less than two hours later, Millsboro police went to Atkins’ home after a 911 hang-up call. Atkins later pleaded guilty to offensive touching for allegedly grabbing his wife’s arm during an argument. He was sentenced to probation.

Atkins later switched his party affiliation to Democrat and in 2008 won back his seat. He lost a re-election bid in 2014.

Randall Chase writes for the Associated Press

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