Rep. Mark Samsel, R-Wellsville, told Franklin County law enforcement officers his strange conduct at a public school in April was guided by God but might be viewed as a psychotic episode. (Noah Taborda/Kansas Reflector)
TOPEKA — State Rep. Mark Samsel allegedly abused Wellsville High School teenagers while working as a substitute art teacher by kicking one in the groin and intimidating others by grabbing students and ranting about religion, music and sex, law enforcement investigators said.
Samsel allowed students to videotape his classroom speech during the fifth-period class that captured his thinking on the power of God, work of the Devil, text of the Bible, evils of rap music, threat of teen suicide as well as intercourse and masturbation.
“Even though I didn’t want to do any of the things I did right there, and this is what’s going to end me up in a manic hospital probably, because it has all the appearances of a psychotic episode or manic episode,” Samsel told law enforcement officers.
A charging affidavit summarizing investigation of the case indicated the Wellsville Republican and attorney told investigators he was adhering to instructions of the Lord while interacting with students on that day in April.
Samsel told a detective that he had a “crystal-clear moment” in which God told him to continue with attempts to make meaningful connections with students on important subjects. The detective wrote in the affidavit that Samsel indicated he posed a direct question to God, who answered his query: “That’s going to get me into trouble isn’t it? ‘Yes, it is.'”
The student who said he was struck in the groin by Samsel told investigators “he was confused, in pain and had to catch his breath before returning to his seat.” A video posted by students to social media accounts showed Samsel grabbing and pushing a student into a wall and declaring, “I‘m going to unleash the wrath of God on you right now.“
Wellsville students told Franklin County investigators, according to the affidavit, they were fearful of what Samsel might do to them. One said Samsel put his hands on her shoulders and demanded to know if she was mentally ill or suicidal. Students were ordered by Samsel to hold hands and walk around an outdoor track as punishment. The overall classroom scene was described as chaotic.
During an interview with a Franklin County detective, the affidavit said, Samsel said a student stepped into him and “bumped me.” Samsel said he “barely grabbed him, but firmly, right by the shoulders.” He said he turned the student’s body toward a classroom wall. The legislator said he would never do anything to hurt a student, but “God works in mysterious ways.”
Detective William Hargesheimer wrote in the report Samsel was convinced God was in control of him.
“He stated, ‘The whole world is telling me not to do it. God said, yes.’ Mark believes this was God’s plan,” the detective wrote.
Samsel told investigators he considered the allegation about kicking a student in the crotch an embellishment because his right foot may or may not have made contact with a teenager. He compared the student’s reaction to a soccer player who faked being fouled by falling to the ground.
“I did not kick the young man, I did not strike him,” Samsel said.
Detectives asked Samsel if he was afraid for his personal safety in the classroom, but Samsel said the word “fear” would be too strong because “the only thing I fear is God.” However, he did attribute some of his actions to self-defense.
Samsel, who was banned from Wellsville school property and all school events, has continued to serve in the Kansas House since the classroom incident April 28.
A magistrate judge in Franklin County has ordered Samsel to undergo a mental health assessment and return to court in July. He’s entered a plea of not guilty to three misdemeanor battery charges.
Samsel’s attorney, Chris Scott, filed a motion to keep the affidavit under seal by the Franklin County District Court. Scott argued disclosure of the document would interfere with the case. His request was denied by the district court, which ordered the affidavit released Tuesday.
Samsel, who previously released a statement portraying his classroom conduct as performance art, told officers that his actions at the Wellsville school were borne of frustration with improper conduct of students. He said he informed students they were driving him to his “wit’s end.” He said he assumed videos of him shared online would be used for a “higher purpose” rather than getting him in legal trouble.
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