Eric Harpel wanted to contest the salacious restraining order Mary Franson filed against him in a court of law. He won't have that opportunity, as on Tuesday, Franson filed to have the restraining order dismissed.
"I believe we can handle this issue outside the courtroom and continue working with our attorneys in this matter," Franson wrote in the court filing. "It is my hope that Mr. Harpel can be trusted to continue working through our attorneys to resolve this issue without a courtroom and press."
[jump] Franson took out a restraining order against her ex-boyfriend on May 10, saying he "stalked" her, made threats, and sent "lewd" emails after they broke up in January. In a particularly colorful passage from the restraining order filing, Franson writes about what allegedly happened when she asked Harpel about some stuff she left at his place: "I asked him when I could get my belongings and he said he wanted my panties in exchange," she wrote.
McLeod County Republicans knew about Franson's allegations as far back as March -- before he was appointed chair of the county party -- but decided to make him head honcho anyway. After City Pages reported on Franson's restraining order, two female McLeod County Republican leaders resigned in protest, with one of the women later retaining a lawyer after Harpel allegedly threatened her and her husband.
But Harpel has maintained his innocence throughout. During a City Pages interview early last month, he said he "adamantly [denies] the allegations contained in the affidavit submitted by Ms. Franson," adding that he eagerly awaited his day in court.
"I'm going [to court] to defend my honor and my reputation," Harpel said. "There's no way anybody should be able to say anything they want and then have people like you smear it all over the goddang place and make me look even worse than what I really am."
Reached for comment this afternoon, Harpel, owner of a GM car dealership in Glencoe that has been in his family since 1922, said he's disappointed he won't get to present his side of things in court, but happy to put the restraining order mess behind him.
He also released a statement. Here it is:
Although I am happy that Ms. Franson voluntarily dismissed the Harassment Restraining Order, I am disappointed that now I will not have the opportunity to present my version of events to the judge. I stand by my prior denials of her allegations, and I believe that she voluntarily dismissed it because she realized that her affidavit had no basis in fact, and consequently there was no basis for the Harassment Restraining Order in the first place. I look forward to being able to move forward with my life enjoying time with my children, continuing to work hard at a business that has been in my family for 90 years, and getting back to focusing on my responsibilities as chairman of the McLeod County Republican Party.:: UPDATE ::
In follow-up correspondence after our report was published, Harpel linked Franson's decision to drop the restraining order with a July 17 City Pages report about his email account being hacked.
Harpel says the hacker deleted all his correspondence with Franson, former McLeod County Republican Party official Marie Thurn, and his attorney. Thankfully, he had everything backed up on an external hard drive.
In an email to City Pages, Harpel wrote: "When only that information was deleted and it gets reported and then [Franson] drops [the restraining order] it says a lot! That information was to be used in court on my behalf to dispute her entire affidavit. She knew I had it too... she had no choice but to drop it as if she didn't her day in court would be ten times worse."
Characterizing the hacking as a "HUGE, MAJOR development" and "turning point in the whole deal," Harpel added: "At this point I'm not accusing, but really? That matter has been turned over to authorities to investigate."
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