Mayor candidate says she didn’t know she worked for an escort service

A woman running what has been described as a “morality campaign” for mayor in Franklin, Tennessee has confirmed that she was arrested for promoting prostitution three decades ago.

Gabrielle Hanson, a MAGA Republican and Franklin alderman, claims she believed that she was working for a modelling agency when she worked answering phones for what turned out to be an escort service while she was a college student.

Seven hours after Nashville’s NewsChannel5 reached out to Ms Hanson about her criminal past, she shared a video in which she said: “One day the police came knocking at my door.”

She was detained in Dallas, Texas in the mid-1990s.

“I was shocked, I was devastated. Everything I worked for for 13 years was about to come true. It should have been the happiest, most exciting time of my life, and it ended up being the absolute lowest,” Ms Hanson said. “That was definitely not who I was, but I was definitely in the middle of all of it.”

The Tennessee TV station notes that Ms Hanson has been running a “morality campaign” opposing LGBT+ rights and events like Pride Fest.

In the video posted to her campaign’s Instagram account, Ms Hanson said that she was trying to finish college as a student at Southern Methodist University when she took a job answering the phone for what she believed to be a modelling and casting agency.

“I answered the phone, I took a name, I took a number and a date,” she says in the footage. “At the end of my work session, I would call the owners and give them that information.”

She insists that she didn’t know it was an escort service until the police appeared. She agreed to a plea deal for a single charge under a process allowing offenders without criminal records to avoid convictions known as “deferred adjudication”.

“My punishment for the deferred adjudication was ‘do not live in Dallas for two years,’ because they knew I was leaving. I said, ‘No problem, because I don’t ever want to live in Dallas again after this experience’,” Ms Hanson says, adding that it was at this time that she moved to Chicago.

NewsChannel5 has also reported that Ms Hanson posted a photo of a number of women who she said backed her campaign, but the women later told the station that they didn’t know Ms Hanson. She claimed they denied knowing her to protect her.

The TV station noted that there are also questions surrounding where she and her husband live.

Ms Hanson compared pleading no contest to one count of promoting prostitution to getting a speeding ticket.

“I moved to Chicago, where I rekindled my love for Christ,” she says in the video.

Ms Hanson has also been slammed for downplaying lynching and opposing “racial terror” markers, according to The Tennessee Holler and The Daily Beast.

She also faces allegations that she shared false information about a mass shooting at a Nashville school and that she threatened to take action against the local airport for backing a Juneteenth festival, the national holiday marking the end of slavery in the US.

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