BRUNSWICK — State Rep. Alex Cornell du Houx is not suffering from any serious psychological symptoms or syndromes, according to a statement by a psychologist who met with the lawmaker a dozen times over a recent three-month period.
Margo Thurston, a state-licensed psychologist who counseled Cornell du Houx, paints a much different portrait of him than is suggested by Cornell du Houx’s former fiancee, State Rep. Erin Herbig, D-Belfast, who is seeking a court order that would prevent Cornell du Houx from interacting with her.
The two legislators, who work at the Statehouse, are now locked in a messy personal relationship gone wrong that threatens to unseat both of them from their elected offices. Cornell du Houx, a Brunswick Democrat, and Herbig are both seeking re-election.
Maine State Police have opened an investigation to determine whether Cornell du Houx broke any laws in the course of the breakup.
Herbig filed a complaint against Cornell du Houx in Belfast District Court, which issued a temporary order of protection from abuse on April 30.
The eight-page complaint alleged that Cornell du Houx stalked Herbig over a period of months, despite repeated warnings to back off from legislative leaders and Herbig’s attorney.
Herbig claimed Cornell du Houx took more than 100 pictures and videos of Herbig while she was sleeping; positioned his car to prevent her from leaving a parking lot; threatened to use his U.S. Marine Corps training to prove his innocence; entered her apartment without her permission, and left personal items so that she would know he was there; followed her home after work; accessed her phone and computer without her permission, and sent scores of unwanted messages via phone, email, and a mutual friend.
“I have been concerned about my safety for several months and am terrified now,” she told the court. “I have had to have someone with me constantly for the last several months. … I have seen him become more aggressive, brazen and desperate. … In his communications he is continuing to intimidate me and pressure me to do what he wants.”
Cornell du Houx began seeing Thurston in November at Herbig’s request, the psychologist wrote in a brief summary of her interactions with him, which was released by his family.
Thurston said Cornell du Houx sought psychological counseling after “a significant breach of trust in their relationship.” Herbig was concerned that he might be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, according to Thurston, from his experience serving in Iraq.
In her complaint, Herbig specifically questioned Cornell du Houx’s psychological well-being.
“When I broke the relationship off, he threatened suicide and said that he ‘did not want to live without me,” she wrote. “I have seen Alex spiral out of control as his mental health seems to be deteriorating.”
But Thurston’s assessment suggested that Cornell du Houx has relationship problems, not mental problems.
“His reported problems have not met the criteria for a mental disorder according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association,” Thurston wrote. “… He received the diagnosis of Partner Relational Problem (a V code indicating the presenting problem is considered ‘not attributable to a mental disorder’).”
While noting that Cornell du Houx is naive in terms of intimate interpersonal relationships, Thurston generally praised him.
“He has denied symptoms associated with PTSD or with any other major mental disorder,” she wrote. “He consistently has presented as an intelligent, well groomed, well mannered, matter of fact, logical, extraordinarily busy and successful young man.”
While Herbig’s allegations are laid out and publicly available in her complaint, Cornell du Houx has consistently refused public comment, other than to say the charges are false.
In response to questions, Cornell du Houx’s lawyer, Jeff Hamm, disputed a few of the facts in Herbig’s complaint.
“At this time, these allegations are simply that – allegations. They tell a story, but they only tell one side of the story,” Hamm said. “Alex has a very different version of events than the one that Erin laid out here.”
Herbig wrote that, in mid-February, she approached the Democratic leadership in the Legislature. “I sought the help of state House leadership to try to get him to end his behavior,” she said.
Hamm claimed that Cornell du Houx actually initiated the involvement of Minority Leader Emily Cain because of Herbig’s emotional state.
“Alex was proactive and initiated contact with his leadership in the Legislature regarding the breakup of he and Rep. Herbig’s engagement since February,” Hamm said. “When it became clear that Rep. Herbig was emotionally upset about the end of their engagement, he went to Emily Cain to detail his plan for giving Erin the space she needed to process the of end their engagement.”
Another point of disagreement is when the couple began their romance.
Herbig wrote that they were “involved in a relationship in late 2011 through early 2012.”
Hamm said that “Alex and Erin got together in May of 2011 … (and) were engaged in December of 2011,” before the February breakup. Hamm said that the couple began living together in June 2011.
A picture on the Facebook page of Cornell du Houx’s sister, Rebecca, seems to show Herbig sporting an engagement ring while posing with Cornell du Houx during a holiday-season family gathering.
On a form accompanying her request for a protection from abuse order, Herbig suggests Cornell du Houx owns a gun. In response to the question “does the defendant own a firearm,” she wrote “yes, concealed weapons permit.”
Hamm said that Cornell du Houx does not own a gun.
“While he does possess a concealed weapons permit, Alex has not owned a firearm of any kind at any time within the last year,” he said.
Under the temporary protection order the court issued, Cornell du Houx is prohibited from owning a weapon, but Brunswick Deputy Police Chief Marc Hagan said that gun ownership can be difficult to prove.
“He told us that he doesn’t have a gun,” Hagan said. “Right now, there’s nothing from the court that would allow us to search his home.”
Cornell du Houx’s mother, Ramona du Houx, said she knows that her son doesn’t own a gun.
“He applied for the permit for a deliberate reason, and that’s because he wants to put in a law next year to make it harder to get the permits, because he’s concerned about how guns are used in our society. He was testing the law,” she said.
The Belfast court is expected to decide whether to grant Herbig a more permanent order of protection from abuse on Monday, May 14.
State Rep. Alex Cornell du Houx, D-Brunswick.
State Rep. Erin Herbig, D-Belfast.
Here is the Feb. 24 psychological summary of Brunswick state Rep. Alex Cornell du Houx by Margo Bonner Thurston, a licensed psychologist from Belfast:
“Mr. Alex Cornell du Houx has requested that I produce a confidential, brief summary of psychological issues raised during counseling with me (11/3/11-2/23/12). Of singular importance to him is dispelling any potential concerns his employers or superiors may have regarding his ability to perform his job(s) and his psychological fitness for duty. Opinions and conclusions in this summary were developed during the course of 11 individual, 50 minute meetings and 1 joint session with his girlfriend over about 3 months.
“Mr. Cornell du Houx, age 28, initiated psychological counseling at the request of his girlfriend after a significant breach of trust between them. He denied experiencing any symptoms other than distress and frustration about possibly losing his relationship. His girlfriend‘s point of view has been that he may be suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD) from his experiences serving in Iraq with the Marines. He has denied symptoms associated with PTSD or with any other major mental disorder. He consistently has presented as an intelligent, well groomed, well mannered, matter of fact, logical, extraordinarily busy and successful young man. He admitted he has been “clueless” at times regarding his relationship and in fact he has appeared to be naive and superficial in his understanding of intimate interpersonal dynamics. His reported problems have not met the criteria for a mental disorder according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association (DSM-IV) and so counseling was initiated under the DSM-lV V code of Partner Relational Problem. The goals of counseling have been to reduce stress, improve interpersonal communication so that he may restore trust within his relationship with his girlfriend and learn how he might prevent relationship problems in the future.
“In summary, Mr. Alex Cornell du Houx sought psychological counseling in November 201 1 at the request of his girlfriend/now fiancee with whom he was experiencing significant relationship problems. He received the diagnosis of Partner Relational Problem (a V code indicating the presenting problem is considered “not attributable to a mental disorder”). Within the scope of informal psychological assessment for counseling, Cornell du Houx did not and does not appear to be suffering from psychological symptoms or syndromes impairing his work performance or fitness for duty.”