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Madison Alder accused of domestic abuse; alleged victim calls for vote of no confidence

Jamie Johnson and Michell McKoy. Photo supplied.

This story contains descriptions of alleged domestic violence. This story has been updated.

Madison nonprofit leader Michelle McKoy has called on the Madison Common Council to hold a vote of no confidence in Alder Iorfa Charles Myadze after alleging in a social media video that he physically and emotionally abused her during a relationship that spanned seven years. 

In an email reviewed by Madison365, McKoy asked the entire Common Council to hold a vote of no confidence, which, she wrote in the email, she hopes is the first step toward his removal from office. 

Common Council president Jael Currie did not respond to email and phone messages seeking comment. City Attorney Michael Haas said no-confidence votes are normally conducted in parliamentary bodies, but the Common Council could pass a censure resolution. That would not result in removal from the council; alders can only be removed for cause after a hearing and a three-fourths vote of the entire council.

McKoy, the executive director of the Bridge Lake Point Waunona Neighborhood Center, has also petitioned the Dane County Circuit Court for a restraining order against Myadze. After a hearing Friday, a judge did not grant a restraining order but cautioned Myadze against attending events where McKoy is in attendance, McKoy said.

McKoy posted a video to Facebook on March 15 alleging that Myadze had abused her for more than seven years during a relationship that ended 12 years ago. Madison365 has been unable to verify McKoy’s allegations regarding other women.

Since McKoy posted the video, both she and Jamie Johnson, who was married to Myadze from 2001 until 2003, alleged patterns of abuse in interviews with Madison365. 

Charles Myadze. Photo supplied.

Myadze defeated incumbent Rebecca Kemble to represent Madison’s North Side on the Common Council in 2021 and was reelected in 2023.

A statement provided to Madison365 by Myadze’s attorney says Myadze “unequivocally asserts that these allegations are unfounded and that he has never engaged in domestic abuse towards any woman.”

Madison365 asked Myadze, 49, for a response to specific allegations described in police reports, court records and interviews. The statement did not address any of those specific allegations.

The statement, issued before Friday’s hearing, continues: “Mr. Myadze is eager for the opportunity to meet the false allegations being made against him in court. He trusts the legal process and will be vindicated. Mr. Myadze remains committed to serving our community with integrity and dedication.”

Myadze’s statement also says that “as an alderman, he has taken a strong stance against domestic violence, consistently supporting initiatives and funding aimed at assisting survivors and combating domestic violence within our community. It is an issue of great importance that requires our collective attention and action.”

For anyone experiencing domestic violence, resources are available:
National Domestic Violence Hotline: Call 800-799-7233 or text START to 88788
Domestic Abuse Intervention Services: Call 608-251-4445 or text 608-420-4638
UNIDOS Against Domestic Violence: Call 800-510-9195

Jamie’s story

Photo supplied.

Johnson said she met Myadze in 1998 or 1999 through cousins who were friends of his, and that the abuse started before they were even officially a couple.

“He always thought I was cheating on him. Always,” she said. “We weren’t even in a really full-blown relationship or anything. But he had come over to my house and grabbed me and choked me and was accusing me of having somebody over at my house. I should have run away then.”

Over the next several years, she alleged, he punched and choked her numerous times, and held a knife to her throat on two occasions.

“I thought he was going to kill me,” she said.

Johnson and Myadze married in 2001 after she became pregnant. A year later, Johnson alleged, an argument over Thanksgiving plans escalated to the point that Myadze attempted to forcibly take their 10-month-old baby from her arms, choked her against the front door of their home, and refused to let her leave. 

A Department of Children and Family Services report reviewed by Madison365 details Johnson’s account of the incident. The report reads, in part:

“Jamie reported that Iorfa grabbed her neck and pushed her backward as she tried to head toward the front door … Jamie went on to say that she attempted to leave through the kitchen door and Iorfa grabbed her arm and spun her around. Jamie reported that she then headed for the front door again and felt something strike her. Jamie stated that Iorfa then grabbed her from behind and pulled her backward with enough force so that she fell onto her back and landed with her feet in the air. Jamie stated that she was holding (the baby) the whole time and he landed on her chest.”

According to the report, Myadze gave a different account:

“Iorfa reported that he was holding (the baby) during a verbal (argument) when Jamie grabbed (the baby) and the couple struggled. Iorfa stated that he let go of (the baby) and Jamie then fell backward over the arm of the couch with (the baby). Iorfa denied grabbing Jamie’s neck or slamming her head on the door. Iorfa stated that Jamie could have inflicted injuries upon herself before the police interviewed her. Iorfa did not recall seeing any injury to (the baby’s) face.”

The Department of Children and Family Services recommended protective services for the child “to ensure (the baby’s) safety in the care of his father and to provide supportive services during this period of family reorganization.”

Johnson ultimately did leave the house. She said a passerby saw her running and gave her a ride to her sister’s house, who then drove her to a police station.

The Dane County Sheriff’s Office confirmed to Madison365 that Myadze was arrested and booked into the Dane County Jail on charges of abuse of a child, battery and false imprisonment. Dane County Circuit Court case files provided by Johnson indicate that Myadze pled guilty to false imprisonment, a Class E felony, and the other two charges were dismissed. Documents provided by Johnson show that he entered and successfully completed a deferred prosecution program in 2004, which is why all charges were ultimately dismissed and expunged from publicly available records.

A statement provided by Myadze’s attorney says, “Over 20 years ago Mr. Myadze was charged with domestic violence during a contentious divorce and custody battle. To resolve this matter, he entered a deferred prosecution agreement with the Dane County District Attorney’s Office which required him to enter a guilty plea to one criminal count. Mr. Myadze successfully completed the agreement and all charges were dismissed.”

According to family court records, Myadze filed for divorce in December 2002, a month after the incident.

Johnson alleges that during the 2021 campaign for Common Council, Myadze offered her money to remain quiet about the past.

“He came to me and said, ‘I’m running for city council … they might end up digging up my past. So if you don’t talk to anybody, I will give you $1,000,’” she said. She said she did not accept the offer. Neither Myadze nor his attorney commented on this allegation.

Michelle’s story

Photo supplied.

McKoy said she met Myadze at Calvary Gospel Church around 2006. She said she saw a man of faith who seemed “broken,” but thought, “I can fix him.”

She said the abuse started soon thereafter, but it was more hidden than what Johnson allegedly experienced.

“He would throw surprise birthday parties for me, and he would invite the people that I loved, but then while they were there, he would pinch me or pull my hair, and tell me, ‘You’re a whore like your sister,’ or, ‘I can’t believe you have me around these people.’ And they did not know. I feel stupid. Because I did a lot of acting. I did a lot of pretending everything was good when it wasn’t.”

McKoy said the relationship was off and on for about seven and a half years, during which Myadze and his three children would sometimes stay with her. She said she decided to end it when the abuse escalated to throwing her down on a couch and choking her during an argument.

“I realized, when it got to that point that he choked me, as hard as it is, (I) have to leave,” she said. “What was hard about that is all our friends that we had mutually stopped talking to me. And that hurt. I felt alone.”

She said she didn’t tell anyone about any of the alleged abuse for 10 years, and only two years ago told a friend, but didn’t name Myadze. Later, she even told the story at a public event, but still didn’t name Myadze, instead titling the story “Dating the Devil.”

Even as she became more comfortable with the idea of sharing her story over the past few months, she was hesitant.

“(I thought) I can’t be the one to speak out,” she said. “This happened 12 years ago. It’s going to look like I’m bitter, I’m petty. No one’s going to believe me.”

She changed her mind on March 15, when she saw a comment under a February 28 Facebook post from the Madison Common Council honoring Myadze for Black History Month.

The comment, which has since been deleted, was made by an account named Quin Jones and read, “This man physically, emotionally, verbally abuses women in this community yet he represents this community? How does the city highlight such an abuser? Do better Madison. He should not be an alder or in any form representing the people of Dane County.”

Madison365 has not been able to confirm the identity of the owner of that account, nor the accuracy of that comment.

McKoy decided to respond to that comment, writing, “This is true, Charles Myadze physically and mentally abused me. I’m willing to share my story because he is still doing this to other women. Time we come out ladies.”

She then decided to make and post a video.

“I think that was just it. Just f**k it,” she said. “What do I got to lose? I’m tired.”

Why stay?

Domestic Abuse Intervention Services (DAIS) executive director Shannon Barry said one in three women and one in four men experience intimate partner violence at some point in their lives. But less than one-fourth of domestic violence is ever reported to law enforcement, and it takes on average seven attempts to leave a relationship before it’s ultimately successful.

UNIDOS Against Domestic Violence executive director Virginia Gittens Escudero said in an interview that there are many reasons abuse can continue for long periods: financial dependence, family pressure, and cultural pressure.

Neither Barry nor Escudero commented specifically on McKoy’s or Johnson’s allegations.

“There is also a little bit of manipulation,” she said. “The aggressor, when they see that the victim is ready to leave, they use mechanisms to manipulate and make false promises to change.”

Barry said abusers can create an environment in which their victim feels trapped.

“Batterers are very skilled at isolating their victims,” Barry said. “Victims and survivors really start believing the messages that they’re hearing from the person who’s causing harm to them, which is that they won’t be believed (and) that somehow it’s their fault.”

McKoy said that’s part of what made it difficult for her to get out. She remembers being at the altar at church, praying for a better relationship.

“I was asking God to help me be a better person for him,” she said. “I wasn’t good enough for him. I was asking God to please show me what I can do to make this man happy because I don’t deserve him.”

Johnson said for her, it was more about fear.

“I don’t know why I didn’t” end it after the first alleged incident of abuse. “He scared me.”

Escudero said it’s not uncommon for abusers to remain in good standing in the community.

“(When) we talk about domestic violence, we talk a lot about power and control. That’s one of the main things that we talk about,” she said. “When this is a person that everyone knows in the community, they’re charming, they’re successful, I think it’s a little bit more difficult for victims to come forward and think that nobody’s going to believe them, because this person shows differently in community or other spaces.”

Anyone experiencing domestic abuse should reach out to one of the many service agencies in the area, Escudero of UNIDOS said. 

“We are available to anybody,” said Barry of DAIS. “It’s all free and confidential. They don’t have to be in a current situation, but we can talk through things, we can also help them form a safety plan.”

Escudero said no one will judge you and no one will encourage you to leave a relationship until you’re ready.

“We’re here to listen,” she said.

For anyone experiencing domestic violence, resources are available:

  • National Domestic Violence Hotline: Call 800-799-7233 or text START to 88788
  • Domestic Abuse Intervention Services: Call 608-251-4445 or text 608-420-4638
  • UNIDOS Against Domestic Violence: Call 800-510-9195

Robert Chappell is executive editor of 365 Media. Contact him at [email protected].