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'I'm very scared:' Mari Manoogian gives vivid new details of Michigan lawmakers' toxic relationship

December 05, 2021, 8:11 AM

Update: Ingham Judge Releases Rep. Marino from PPO

A Lansing judge is considering whether to withdraw a personal protection order that keeps Rep. Steve Marino away from Rep. Mari Manoogian, a former girlfriend.

Manoogian, a 32-year-old Democrat from Birmingham, got the Ingham County court order in mid-September after what she called a "volatile relationship" with the 29-year-old Republican from Harrison Township for four months in 2019. Her evidence includes text messages in which Marino said he would make it "my life mission to destroy you," said he hoped Manoogian's "car explodes on the way in" and warned her to "hide on the House floor."

Steve Marino and Mari Manoogian no longer smile at each other.

A security escort now accompanies the Republican on the House floor because of the order. Detroit lawyer Mike Rataj, representing Marino, says the messages were "far removed from any potential violence" and were protected as free speech. A decision on his motion to lift the no-contact order is expected this week.

In testimony Friday to Judge Lisa McCormick during a hearing than ran nearly four hours, Manoogian described fears and annoyances, according to live tweets by Gongwer News Service reporter Jordyn Hermani. Marino, in the House since 2017, didn't testify.

Dramatic anecdotes recounted by the second-term Birmingham lawmaker include alleged pet abuse, abrupt mood swings and persistent tormenting:

Scary personality flip

Amid casual conversation or joking, Marino would "turn on a dime" and switch to threats, yelling or aggressive texts. "The way respondent spoke to me ... made me feel like he could switch from zero to 100 at any moment. ... The respondent seemed like he had some sort of mental break."

Even after they stopped dating, she said, he "raised his voice at me."

Perceived threat

She felt Marino was stalking and harassing when he texted after their relationship that he would "not leave me alone every session day." Earlier, a text message said he'd "ream you a new asshole."

Pet abuse

Manoogian says she saw Marino beat his Yorkie, named Shadow, until the dog defecated on his apartment floor. He allegedly also hit it with a belt, threw the pet and occasionally kept it in a shut shower stall for hours.

Unwanted hugs

Despite knowing that she disliked hugs, Marino chased her around his kitchen and once caught her in "a bear hug." She began to cry and asked him to stop, she said, but he didn't. "It was a very clear incident of domestic violence."

Rep. Manoogian: "It was a very clear incident of domestic violence." (Photo: Facebook)

Body hair teasing

Manoogian said she asked him to stop commenting on her arm hair, such as calling her a "fur child." Armenian Americans typically have thick body hair, she noted. "It's something as a woman, especially being in the public eye, I'm very conscious of."

'I'm very scared'

"I'm more fearful today than I've ever been of the respondent. ... Because it is now out in the open, I believe that if there isn't anything to prohibit him from contacting me or being near me, there will be retaliatory behavior for all that has occurred here. ... [I believe] he would carry out a threat against me.

"I'm very scared. I don't know how else to say it: I'm very scared."

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