JEFFERSON CITY — A Missouri lawmaker facing federal fraud charges is learning what legislative exile is like.
Days after Rep. Tricia Derges was kicked out of the Republican caucus for allegedly falsely promoting a medical treatment that could treat COVID-19, House leaders assigned her new office space — in a windowless broom closet.
“Yes, I’m in a closet,” Derges told the Post-Dispatch Thursday.
The cubbyhole, listed as Room 400D, is located in a space near the House gallery, a sometimes crowded and loud corridor in pre-COVID times.
They also moved Derges’ seat on the House floor to be next to a fellow exiled Republican, Rep. Rick Roeber of Lee’s Summit, who was booted from the GOP caucus amid allegations that he abused his children.
On Thursday, Derges said she was trying to stay positive about the latest development in a rocky first month of her freshman year.
“I’m OK with that. I’ll make it work because I am here to support my district,” Derges said. “If I have to live in a bathroom, I’m going to be here for them. I love to make lemonade out of lemons.”
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The new office was hastily arranged after House Republicans kicked her out of the caucus on Monday after a federal grand jury indicted the 63-year-old Nixa resident on fraud charges for falsely promoting a treatment she was selling at medical clinics as containing stem cells that could treat various diseases, including COVID-19.
The 20-count indictment also accused her of illegally providing prescription drugs to clients.
Derges was released on her own recognizance after making an initial court appearance during which she pleaded not guilty to all the charges.
House Speaker Rob Vescovo, R-Arnold, last week asked Derges to resign, but in an email to the speaker she said her “innocence will prevail” and that she won’t step down.
Derges downplayed her new office.
“They have the right to do as they want, I guess,” she said. “I’m trying to be so patient through this.”
Derges would not address questions about her legal plight, which also includes making false statements to federal agents investigating her case.
“I can’t say anything. I wish I could come out and in one hour do a press release and clear everything up,” Derges said.