Former state Rep. Jed Gilbert Harris Jr. of Columbus and his ex-girlfriend were arrested on misdemeanor charges early Monday after an altercation at Wild Wing Café, 6525 Whittlesey Blvd.
Each was charged with simple battery involving family violence after the dispute that began late Sunday night. Harris, 64, was arrested around 12:30 a.m. and the woman, Cynthia Hatcher Patrick, 56, was charged around midnight, according to jail records.
Each was booked into the jail about 1:20 a.m. and soon released on $1,000 bond, records show. The case will go to Muscogee State Court.
The Ledger-Enquirer typically does not report misdemeanor offenses except in unusual circumstances. Harris is a public figure, having not only served in the Georgia General Assembly from 1991 to 1993, but having run for Columbus mayor in 2002.
He is active in community organizations such as the “Back The Blue” effort to support public safety, and often attends political functions where he’s photographed with dignitaries. He regularly posts those images to Facebook, where he has discussed again seeking public office.
His arrest provoked passionate debate Tuesday on social media, where Harris claimed he was the victim in the dispute at Wild Wing Café. That prompted Patrick to post a response alleging she only threw water in Harris’ face, and he then assaulted her, grabbing her by the hair with one hand as he hit her with the other.
In a telephone interview Tuesday afternoon, Harris flatly denied that: “I did not touch her at all,” he said.
He said he and Patrick had dated, but broke up last November. She wanted to ask about getting back together, and that’s why they met Sunday night, he said.
He had to tell her he would not resume the relationship, and he thought he should tell her in person, he said: “I was trying to do it in a kind way.”
According to Harris, she asked, “Do you think we are done?” And he replied, “Yes, I believe we’re done. I think we had a good relationship at one time, and I wish you well, and we should go our separate ways.”
It did not go over well, he said: “She just exploded.” She cursed him and threw a big glass of ice water in his face, he said.
Patrick in a telephone interview Tuesday said resuming the relationship was not the point of contention: “I had no intention of getting back with that idiot.”
The dispute was over some photographs of her that Harris has on his cellphone, she said: “He has some very private information of mine.”
She said Harris took photos of her without her permission, sometimes while she changed clothes.
She wanted to ensure he deleted the images by having him do it while she watched, but he refused, she said. She claimed he first said, “No, I’m not going to do it,” and then told her, “It’s not in my phone anymore.”
She assumed he was lying, she said: “Then of course I started getting mad.”
She grabbed her glass of water and pitched it in his face, and he reacted first by throwing every other drink left on the table in her face, she said: “The water and alcohol went up my nose and in my eyes.”
Then he assaulted her, she alleged – grabbing her hair and hitting her. “He had my head bent all the way backward,” she said. Harris let go of her when a group of “four to five big guys” in the restaurant came toward the booth they were in.
“That’s the only reason he let go of me, because those guys were standing there,” she said.
She said she has bruises on her arms and lumps on both legs just below the knees, where she believes her legs hit the edge of the table.
Harris said he does have revealing photos of Patrick. “She sent photos to me,” he said. He will delete them once the case is resolved, but has been advised to keep them for evidence, he said. He has hired Columbus attorney Mark Shelnutt.
Harris maintained he never made physical contact with Patrick during the altercation: “I reached across the table, but I did not touch her.”
According to police reports, two Wild Wing Café servers told officers they saw Harris pulling Patrick by the hair, their attention drawn by the noise of dishes crashing. Officers wrote that one of the witnesses said she saw Harris trying to pull Patrick out of the booth and “repeatedly striking her in the head with his hand.”
The other witness said she saw Harris pull Patrick’s hair, but did not see Harris hit her.
A third server said he saw only Patrick and Harris throwing drinks at each other.
Harris said Tuesday that he had never been arrested before: “I have no criminal record. This obviously was an eye-opener for me…. I’ve always tried to steer clear of controversy.”
He bears no ill will toward Patrick, he said: “I truly wish her well.”