Wendi Wright and her daughter, Suni
Wright Friends and Family handout
The Tennessee woman charged with trying to run her Republican congressman off the road over his vote to repeal Obamacare says that she pursued him because she wanted to ask what he thought constitutes a pre-existing condition.
“That was my question to him. What is a pre existing condition?” Wendi Wright, 35, told BuzzFeed News outside the court house in Dresden, Tennessee, on Monday after she pleaded not guilty to a felony charge of reckless.
Wright's lawyer, Bruce Brown, added that she wanted to ask the question because her 5-year-old daughter, Suni, “has pre existing condition. Her family is affected by this health care vote.”
But Rep. David Kustoff, his aide, and their driver said the incident was so terrifying they feared for their safety — causing them to pull off the freeway and drive to a friend's driveway on a rural side road in Martin.
Kustoff's office hasn't responded to many requests for comment from BuzzFeed News.
Wright allegedly confronted Kustoff after he left a private meeting with the Agricultural department at the University of Tennessee at Martin on May 8.
Wright, who is studying to education on the campus, and, according to a friend, is a Democrat who voted fro Hillary Clinton, tried to flag him down to speak with him after he ended his tour, according to her attorney.
After Kusttoff drove away, Wright allegedly followed and drove within a few feet of the congressman's' car for about five miles, Sgt. Marty Plunk of the Weakley County Sheriff’s Department said Monday. At one point she placed her car “beside the victims, in a manner as to force the victims [to be] in fear of being forced off the roadway,” according to an affidavit filed in court.
Kustoff and his team called 911 then pulled into the driveway of a farmer he knew. The affidavit says Wright got out of her vehicle “began striking the window of the victims vehicle, screaming at the victims” and reached inside the car, “putting them at fear for their safety.”
Wright allegedly tried to block Kustoff's car from leaving. It eventually did, and Wright allegedly followed the vehicle again for a short while before pulling away.
“Evidence is going to show from eye witness accounts that she was trying to endanger them,” Plunk said. Wright “wouldn’t cooperate with me. Left me no choice. If you can’t get both sides of the story and you’re only left with what you got you have to move forward with what you got.” He added there was no physical harm to the car or people inside.
Rep. David Kustoff, left, in January
Zach Gibson / AP
Wright on Monday was ordered to not have any contact with Kustoff, who she's repeatedly tried to contact over the proposed health care law. She is out on $1,000 bond and has another hearing in June.
“I know Wendi. I know her heart. She'd never intentionally put someone’s in harms way. But Kusstoff doesn’t know that,” Wright's friend, Callye Norsworthy, told BuzzFeed News. “We live in an area where being liberal is not popular.”
Norsworthy said she was tagged in Wright's Facebook post — who's since deleted her account — about the incident, which eventually led the police to arrest her.
The post, Norsworthy added, essentially said it was a “weird afternoon — I can’t believe this happened.” It didn't include Kustoff's name, but said, Wright “never saw myself following a congressman, trying to get him to talk to me. #healthcareforall #Iwontstopfighting?”
Brown, Wright's lawyer, said she was “not trying to harm the congressman.” He added the “evidence is just his word about his experience and whoever else was in the vehicle.”
A You Care crowd funding site for Wright — which has since been taken down — said she was upset that Kustoff didn't hold a town hall after his vote earlier this month to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. (The bill is now in the Senate.)
Comments on Kustoff's social media profiles show that many of his constituents are upset because they say he hasn't held a town hall, particularly to field questions about what the proposed health care law would entail. It's unclear if he actually has or not.
The Obamacare repeal bill doesn’t let insurance companies deny coverage because people have pre-existing conditions. States can apply for waivers, approved by the federal government, which would allow them to raise prices on people with pre-existing health conditions — but not ban coverage.
The affidavit filed in court: