The fiancé of Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber admitted yesterday to an illegal marriage with an 18-year-old Ethiopian student in exchange for cash.
Cylvia Hayes, often called Oregon’s “first lady,” said she needed the money for college and Abraham Abraham wanted to stay in the United States to pursue a college degree of his own.
Hayes took $5,000 in exchange for marrying Abraham during what she called a “difficult and unstable period in my life,” according to KPTV.
Hayes was 29 and Abraham 18 when the “green card” marriage took place in 1997. They were divorced five years later.
Marriages for the sole purpose of avoiding deportation are a federal crime for both participants, according to the Willamette Week, which first broke the story.
“We met only a handful of times,” Hayes said of Abraham during a press conference Thursday. “We never lived together. I have not had any contact with him since the divorce finalized in 2002.”
“It was wrong then and it is wrong now and I am here today to accept the consequences,” Hayes said.
Aside from the embarrassment, those consequences may be minimal – for her. KPTV reported that the statute of limitations on such illegal marriages is five years, so Hayes is not expected to face criminal prosecution.
Abraham, however, could be deported.
Willamette Week reporter Nigel Jaquiss discovered the marriage while investigating Hayes’ role as an advisor to the governor on “green energy” and what influence she might have exerted on state consulting contracts because of their relationship.
Hayes herself is a private consultant in addition to her public role as “first lady.” She said she would be stepping back from her work for an unspecified period of time.
Hayes told the Willamette Week that Gov. Kitzhaber only learned of the marriage Tuesday. In addition to her marriage to Abraham, Hayes has been married twice before.
Kitzhaber, a Democrat, has been running well ahead of Republican candidate Dennis Richardson. How this new revelation will affect the race is anybody’s guess.
Watch KPTV’s report here:
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