Oregon first lady Cylvia Hayes today confessed to breaking federal law in 1997 by entering into an illegal marriage with an 18-year-old Ethiopian immigrant.
Hayes, who is now engaged to Gov. John Kitzhaber, says she was paid approximately $5,000 to marry the man, Abraham B. Abraham. Hayes had kept the marriage secret because she was "embarrassed." She claims Kitzhaber did not know until this week, when WW first raised questions about it.
"He learned about this in the most painful and public way," she said. "This is my greatest sorrow in this difficult situation."
Hayes spoke at 4 pm at the World Trade Center in Portland. Kitzhaber was absent from the press conference. Hayes said she asked him not to attend.
Hayes called the sham marriage "a serious mistake." She added that she did not report the income she received from the marriage on her taxes. Filing a false tax return is against the law.
WW reported details of the marriage Wednesday night. Court and other records show Hayes and Abraham never lived together after they were married in 1997. (She was 29 at the time.) They filed for divorce in 2001 after Abraham had graduated from college.
It's a felony to enter into a marriage solely for the purpose of helping a foreign national gain citizenship or other immigration benefits. The statute of limitations may have expired in the case of Hayes, but Abraham could still face immigration penalties.
Hayes' voice choked with emotion throughout her statement. She dabbed at her eyes with a tissue, and had to stop speaking before discussing her regret at not telling Kitzhaber about the marriage.
The full text of her statement was released to media during the press conference. It reads:
More details to follow.