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What we know about Republican state Rep. Neil Friske and his alleged crimes

What we know about Republican state Rep. Neil Friske and his alleged crimes

By Kyle Kaminski

June 25, 2024

An ultra-conservative Republican state lawmaker is under investigation for allegedly assaulting an adult dancer with a gun in Lansing—just hours before he was due at the Capitol.

LANSING—Right-wing state Rep. Neil Friske (R-Charlevoix) is facing a sexual assault investigation after he was reportedly arrested just before 3 a.m. last Thursday in Lansing.

Friske is a 62-year-old Republican who represents parts of northern Michigan, and is seeking re-election this year. The Lansing Police Department on Friday requested felony charges of sexual assault, assault, and a weapons offense to be filed against him—none of which have been issued by county prosecutors as of Tuesday as the investigation proceeds this week. 

Here’s everything we know about the incident:

The Lansing Police Department reportedly responded to a call at about 2:30 a.m. on June 20 from a woman alleging that Friske was threatening her with a gun, and attempting to rape her. 

“Caller states there is a male with a gun threatening to shoot her and that he tried to rape her,” according to a radio dispatch from Broadcastify, which was later shared by WLNS in Lansing.

According to a statement from the Ingham County Prosecutor John Dewane’s office, Lansing police officers also responded to “possible shots that were fired” that night and, during the course of the investigation, had also “learned of a possible sexual assault of an adult female.”

Michigan Information and Research Service reports that the woman involved in the incident was an adult dancer who worked for Deja Vu Showgirls—a nearby strip club in South Lansing. 

Friske was arrested at about 2:45 a.m. on June 20 on the same block where he purchased a condo in January, reports the Washington Post. Police officers submitted a warrant request against Friske that included felony charges of sexual assault, assault, and a weapons offense. 

A few hours after he was arrested, Friske’s campaign defended him in a statement, reportedly writing: “As many of us know, Rep Friske is always exercising his 2nd Amendment right.”

In the statement, his campaign also reportedly cast the arrest as suspicious due to the upcoming election, as well as accused his political opponents of having “deep-state ties.”

Absent charges, Friske was released from custody on June 21, where he was seen climbing into the back of an SUV with his attorney, Ed Zeineh. Zeineh mostly declined to comment, except to maintain Friske’s “innocence” and note that “the process” will “work itself out.”

“We’re going to conduct a very thorough, thorough, investigation and make sure we turn over our findings to the Ingham County Prosecutor’s Office, so they can make a very informed decision not to prosecute Rep. Friske,” Zeineh told a reporter at the Detroit Free Press.

Prosecutors have since asked police to continue their investigation. In a statement, Dewane said his office will “continue to work in coordination with law enforcement on this matter.”

Zeineh also elaborated to the Associated Press later that afternoon: “Our position is Rep. Friske is an innocent person and we’re going to work to establish that. Substantively I have nothing to comment on. I haven’t received any police reports. We are just beginning our investigation.”

This week, Friske’s office released a statement that claimed he was somehow barred from disclosing any additional details about the situation “due to the ongoing investigation.”

“What I can say is that the police were called, resulting in being detained due to false accusations,” Friske said. “However, upon initial investigation, no evidence was found to support the claims and I was subsequently released with no charges. I am confident that this investigation will totally exonerate me. … My faith is that people will see right through this.”

On Monday, Friske also appeared on a conservative northern Michigan radio show and claimed that he was “being framed and trying to be framed and being set up.” He also made an appearance at a forum in Petoskey where he said he expects the accusations to be dropped.

“I did absolutely nothing wrong. And I’m sure when the police are done conducting their investigation, I will be completely exonerated. So far, this has not been a miscarriage of justice, it has been a miscarriage of the media,” Friske said without elaborating on what he meant.

Who is Neil Friske?

Friske represents Charlevoix and Emmet counties and portions of Cheboygan, Chippewa, and Mackinac counties—all in northern Michigan. He was elected to the state House in 2022, is running for his second term this year, and was presumably in Lansing on Thursday morning to go to the state Capitol, which was in a legislative session just a few hours after he was arrested.

Friske is married, has four children, and bills himself as a champion for conservative values who “loves to volunteer and serve in his community”—including as a churchgoer, little league coach, and member of various right-wing groups like Right to Life and the National Rifle Association. 

His family owns Friske Orchards in Charlevoix, where Friske was raised before he and his brother took over the farm, and later started a property management company Friske & Sons.

During his brief time in the state Legislature, Friske has reportedly supported hard-line conservative policies and introduced bills to curb abortion access—including an unsuccessful bill that would’ve banned the use of prescription drugs for medication-induced abortions.

He also voted against legislation that was designed to strengthen protections for survivors of domestic violence, which took effect this year and bars those convicted of domestic violence from buying, owning, or transporting a gun for a period of eight years after their sentence. 

Friske’s father, Richard Friske, was reportedly a member of the German Luftwaffe during WWII and repeatedly advocated for eugenics when he served in the state House from 1971 to 1972. 

READ MORE: Republican lawmaker arrested in Lansing for felony-level offense

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Follow Political Correspondent Kyle Kaminski here.

Author

  • Kyle Kaminski

    Kyle Kaminski is an award-winning investigative journalist with more than a decade of experience covering news across Michigan. Prior to joining The ‘Gander, Kyle worked as the managing editor at City Pulse in Lansing and as a reporter for the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

CATEGORIES: GOP ACCOUNTABILITY
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