House Ethics Committee to Review Rep. Filner's Alleged Assault on Baggage Claim Worker

The House Ethics Committee announced an investigation Wednesday of Rep. Bob Filner's run-in with a baggage worker at Dulles International Airport last month. The incident resulted in misdemeanor assault and battery charges against the congressman.

The committee released a short statement saying that it voted Tuesday to form a bipartisan, four-member investigative subcommittee to look into the incident. Action by the subcommittee will be deferred until the resolution of criminal proceedings against Filner, D-Calif., the panel said in a statement.

Filner is due in Loudoun County, Va., General District Court on Oct. 2 for a hearing over the incident, which he has attributed to a "misunderstanding" after his bags were delayed.

According to a sworn complaint by United Airlines baggage worker Joanne Kay Kunkel, Filner stormed into the airline's bagging office Aug. 19, barging past other customers and demanding to speak with higher-ups. He repeatedly pushed on Kunkel's arms when she tried to stop him and backed off only when he heard another employee on the phone with airport police.

Filner has said he regrets the incident and has termed the charges "ridiculous," but he's declined interview requests and has not offered his own version of events. His spokeswoman did not immediately return a call for comment Wednesday.

The announcement by the House Ethics Committee Wednesday came on its deadline under new House rules that require the panel to investigate any lawmaker charged with a crime, or report to the House on why it's decided not to. The determination must be made within 30 days — which fell on Wednesday in Filner's case.

The investigative subcommittee will be chaired by Rep. Gene Green, D-Texas, and the top Republican will be J. Gresham Barrett, R-S.C. The two other members will be Reps. Joseph Crowley, D-N.Y., and Lincoln Diaz-Balart, R-Fla.