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Former union lobbyist Jonathan Byrd pleads guilty to aggravated assault

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Former union lobbyist Jonathan Byrd pleads guilty to aggravated assault

Dec 01, 2023 | 6:20 pm ET
By Anna Liz Nichols
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Former union lobbyist Jonathan Byrd pleads guilty to aggravated assault
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Jonathan Byrd testifies at the March 16, 2023 House Labor Committee | House TV screenshot

Jonathan Byrd, a prominent former union lobbyist leader in Michigan, pleaded guilty on Friday to aggravated assault in a Kalamazoo court after being accused of sexual assault of a female colleague at a social event in April 2022.

Byrd had been president of the South Central Michigan AFL-CIO chapter until his resignation in late March when the alleged incident came to light. He also resigned from his position as director of external affairs for the Michigan Laborers’ District Council of the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LiUNA). 

Former union lobbyist Jonathan Byrd pleads guilty to aggravated assault
Attorney General Dana Nessel on March 15, 2023. (Andrew Roth/Michigan Advance)

The Michigan Attorney General’s office filed a charge of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct in June and Byrd took a settlement agreement Friday to plead to aggravated assault instead. Attorney General Dana Nessel said there is an accompanying sentencing agreement that asks the judge to sentence Byrd to 90 days incarceration.   

“Today’s guilty plea and upcoming sentencing will put a predator behind bars,” said Nessel. “I am grateful for our prosecutors who held accountable a public figure, and especially for the victim whose bravery may put an end to one man’s predation of young women in politics. My office will continue to seek justice for victims of assault regardless of how well-connected their assailant may be.” 

The Attorney General’s Office said that Byrd forcibly moved the victim’s hand onto his penis. Compared to the victim who worked in the same fields as him, Byrd had power and influence in the state, creating “a significant power imbalance” between the woman and Byrd, the office said.

When the report came to light there were also concerns over who knew about the incident. 

Before the victim went to the police, state Rep. Jim Haadsma (D-Battle Creek) had organized a meeting between Byrd and the woman, with Haadsma saying he was unaware that the dispute was over a physical assault and not a verbal argument. Police confirmed that assertion during an investigation.

“I tried to be helpful and supportive based on the information shared with me at the time,” Haadsma said in May. “When I later learned of the details, I was surprised and concerned for the woman who came forward to report her experience to law enforcement.”

Byrd will next appear for sentencing on Jan. 8 in the in Kalamazoo County Circuit Court.