There is a bizarre new twist in the story of state Sen. Jeff Kruse (R-Roseburg), the embattled lawmaker who allegedly inappropriately touched two female colleagues.
Now Kruse is entangled in what he says is an extortion attempt.
Kruse, who first won election to the Oregon House in 1996 and moved up to the Senate in 2004, has confirmed to WW that last month he notified the Oregon State Police that an unknown person or persons attempted to extort money from him.
At issue is a grainy, poor quality video recently posted to YouTube.
In the video, a man, whom Kruse acknowledges is him, appears on camera, clothed, grinning and smoking a cigarette.
A woman's face appears in the lower right corner of the screen, suggesting they are engaging in a video chat.
The audio does not work, however, and a message, written in French, appears on the screen stating that fact.
In the video, Kruse sheds his shirt and t-shirt and remains shirtless for the remainder of the three minute, 39 second video. Nothing is visible below his shoulders, although a caption posted with the video says Kruse was masturbating.
Kruse confirms the man in the video is him, and says the footage was used to blackmail him.
"This was a private conversation between two adults, which appears to have been captured and altered by a third party in an attempt to extort money," Kruse tells WW via email. "This video has been reported to the Oregon State Police."
A state police spokesman confirmed Kruse has been in contact with the agency about the video. WW has requested police reports related to the case.
As The Oregonian has reported, Senate President Peter Courtney (D-Salem) stripped Kruse of his committee memberships in October after the allegations of inappropriate touching. Courtney had also ordered the door removed from his office to discourage Kruse from smoking.
Kruse says he isn't sure when the video was recorded.
"I am not sure when the video was taken, however it's not recent and is obviously embarrassing, for which I apologize," Kruse says.
Kruse declined to answer questions about how much money the alleged extortionist sought.
"When it became clear to me that this was a scheme I cut off all communications," he says.
Courtney's spokesman, Robin Maxey, says Courtney has not spoken to Kruse since Oct. 20, when he removed Kruse from all committees indefinitely.
"Sen. Courtney has not seen the video," Maxey said in an email. " When he heard about it in October, it was referred to law enforcement for investigation."
Courtney will now wait to see what the probe of the harrassment allegations against Kruse.
"[He]has already taken the actions that are within his authority as Senate President," Maxey said. "Further sanctions, as prescribed in Senate Rules, would take a vote of the full Senate. Currently, an internal investigation into sexual harassment reports against Senator Kruse is on-going."