News 4 Exclusive: Congressional candidate accused of raping well-known public servant speaks out for first time

Published: Apr. 18, 2022 at 10:07 PM CDT
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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - State Senator Steve Roberts hopes to be the next Congressman from Missouri’s 1st District. In a News 4 exclusive interview, for the first time, he’s speaking publicly since well-known public servant Cora Faith Walker accused him of rape in 2016.

Walker died under mysterious circumstances last month.

“As alleged, did you rape Cora Faith Walker?” asked Chief Investigative Reporter Lauren Trager. “I did not,” answered Roberts.

“As she alleged, did you drug Cora Faith Walker?” Trager asked. “I did not,” Roberts responded.

News 4 asked a number of blunt questions for State Senator Roberts in a lengthy interview.

“If I could have done things differently, I would have gone home by myself, that’s what I would have done differently,” he said.

Walker died last month, just weeks before Roberts announced he’d be running for Congress, hoping to unseat Congresswoman Cori Bush.

“Cori Bush and her supporters keep trying to perpetuate and false lies, these old stories that have been proved false to distract from an indefensible voting record,” he said.

It was 2016. Roberts, the son of a prominent former alderman and businessman, and had just been elected to the state legislature. Walker had also won a seat in another district.

In a lawsuit, Walker stated the two were just social acquaintances when she accompanied him to his apartment on August 26. She said in a deposition they were talking about how they were the only two Black attorneys going to the legislature and what their priorities would be.

She said Roberts offered her a drink of wine. The suit read, “The next thing that Walker recalls is Roberts on top of her physically assaulting her,” further claiming he sexually assaulted and raped her when she was unable to give consent.

“It was a consensual relationship between two adults,” Roberts said.

But Roberts, then and now, adamantly denies the claims.

“Is it possible that the incident with Cora Faith Walker started as consensual and turned nonconsensual?” Trager asked.

“No. As I said, all of our interactions were consensual, and it was on more than one occasion and there was never any ambiguity about that at all,” Roberts said.

Walker went to the police several weeks after the incident. Roberts’ attorneys at the time provided evidence of texts and a nude picture Roberts said he took consensually of Walker from the night before the alleged rape. She denies it was taken consensually.

Roberts’ attorneys said surveillance showed Walker and Roberts going to a store, which was closed and then a receipt from another which shows the purchase of pizza, toothpaste, wine and condoms. But in depositions and in the media, Walker repeatedly claimed she had no intention of being intimate with Roberts, saying if she had seen him buying condoms, she would have run.

Because Roberts had previously been a St. Louis prosecutor, St. Charles County prosecutor Tim Lohmar reviewed the case, releasing a statement saying: “There simply wasn’t enough credible evidence that sexual relations between these two people were anything but consensual.”

Roberts notes that the Department of Defense also looked into his background and granted him a high-level security clearance for his work in the military.

“I have told the truth the entire time. The allegations against me were investigated by multiple agencies and everyone came to the same conclusion after looking at the facts, that I had been telling the truth,” Roberts said.

But it wasn’t the first accusation. The year before, a Saint Louis University Law student accused Roberts of touching her genitals without her consent at a bar. That woman’s lawsuit was later dismissed, and charges were not brought in that case either.

Roberts could not comment on whether they had reached a settlement. But in an email to News 4, the woman wrote “anyone who believes that Steve Roberts, Jr. did not knowingly and intentionally sexually assault me is wrong. He knows what he did to me just as well as I do.”

“Are you here saying both women were lying?” asked Trager. “I am saying I have continued to tell the truth. That the allegations against me are not true,” Roberts said.

After being cleared criminally, Roberts filed a defamation suit against Walker, who countersued for assault.

In a written statement at the time, Roberts called Walker’s claims unbelievable, pointing out that she was an attorney and married woman.

“Some people see that as shifting blame, slut shaming or victim shaming. Do you stand by all the statements you made previously? Do you regret anything you said back then or did back then?” Trager asked. “You have been provided with a copy of the settlement agreement, I think that speaks for itself,” Roberts said.

That settlement agreement dismissed the lawsuits between them for zero damages. It’s never been reported on. Roberts just released it to News 4.

Walker agreed she would not hold herself out to be the victim of sexual assault or rape or a member of the #metoo movement unless the perpetrator was clearly identified as not being Roberts, while Roberts was permitted to both publicly and privately maintain his innocence.

“I think it crosses the lines of common decency, that’s my opinion,” said attorney Alan Mandel.

Mandel represented Walker at the time of the suit. He told News 4 he’s surprised Roberts released the agreement, saying it changes nothing about Walker’s allegations.

“Did you believe her?” asked Trager. “I did, I wasn’t involved for any financial motive, I did because I did believe her,” Mandel said.

He said the entire process was very hard on her, including that Roberts was never charged.

“It really doesn’t mean the person not charged is innocent, it just means the prosecutorial discretion is we cannot get a conviction on the facts we know now,” Mandel said.

The settlement agreement, he says, was Walker’s way of just trying to move on. The whole thing is traumatic for Walker’s loved ones, especially now.

“I mean she is gone; she can’t respond to this,” Mandel said.

On March 11, 2022, police said Walker collapsed outside of a room at the Live! by Loews hotel downtown. She had attended a birthday party for her close friend, St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones, the night before. Her death is shaking many in the community.

“It was a loss, a true loss, she was a good person,” Mandel said.

An autopsy is still pending, but police have said there is no active investigation and they do not suspect foul play.

“I express my condolences to her family, it’s a tragedy when anyone dies young,” Roberts said.

Two days after Walker died, Jones tweeted: “We know who you are and we won’t forget what you did.”

“Did you feel that was directed at you?” Trager asked. “I cannot speculate on what the mayor’s tweets mean; I am more focused on what’s going on in the real world,” answered Roberts

That real world he said, is the work he wants to do in Congress. On March 29, he announced his candidacy. He told News 4 the timing had everything to do with a still-disputed redistricting map and nothing to do with Walker’s death.

“Did you feel that it would be easier to possibly win without her voice here anymore?” Trager asked. “No, that was not a factor at all. My entire focus was making sure we had a First Congressional District that was representative and not diluted,” Roberts said.

But even in the past week, the rape allegations continue to come up. Signs that circulated on social media last week read “Rapist Roberts.”

Also, the St. Louis Young Democrats last week called on Roberts to resign from the statehouse and suspend his race for Congress. Even Mandel said Roberts should be doing things differently.

“I think common decency requires that we let this young woman rest in peace,” he said.

But Roberts said he still needs to clear his name. He said repeatedly, he is running against Bush on the issues, disagreeing with her on recent votes. Bush, however, has indicated she herself is a sexual abuse survivor. Rape will likely be a repeated topic of the race.

“What do you say to rape victims who may be your constituents at some point? Looking at the two of your as candidates, can you truly understand and speak for them on issues that are important to them?” Trager asked. “Absolutely. sexual assault is a serious issue, it needs to be taken seriously and fully investigated,” Roberts said.

Roberts was fired from the Circuit Attorney’s Office in 2015. He said it was because he was running against the incumbent. The office said it was due to bad job performance.

He was not in St. Louis at the time of Walker’s death.

News 4 asked a representative for Walker’s family for comment on this story, but they declined.

The Mayor’s Office declined to comment regarding the tweet.

Lynese Wallace, senior advisor to Rep. Bush’s re-elect, sent News 4 the following statement:

“Steve Roberts is pulling from the usual playbook for abusers, but the fact remains that he has been credibly accused of sexual assault on multiple occasions by multiple women in our community. Power and influence are a big part of the reason why it’s so painful and difficult for survivors of sexual assault to come forward, so when survivors do come forward with allegations, studies show that the overwhelming majority are true. We don’t believe anyone is served by Steve Roberts running a campaign built around the idea that every person who has accused him of wrongdoing is a liar. As a survivor herself, Congresswoman Bush believes survivors and she will continue to work hand in hand with survivors in our community to ensure their experiences are heard, valued, and reflected in policy -- not shamed or silenced.”