SALEM, Ore., Oct. 10 (UPI) -- Cylvia Hayes, fiancée of Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber, has acknowledged she was paid $5,000 in 1997 to marry an Ethiopian immigrant who needed a green card.
Hayes told reporters Thursday that the marriage was a "serious mistake."
She said she and Abraham Abraham, who was 18 at the time while she was 29, never cohabited and only met face to face a few times. They were divorced in 2001.
Kitzhaber only learned of the marriage when Willamette Week broke the story this week, she said.
"John Kitzhaber deserved to know the history of the person he was forming a relationship with," she said. "The fact that I did not disclose this to him meant that he has learned about this in the most public and unpleasant way. This is my greatest sorrow in this difficult situation."
Kitzhaber, 67, a doctor, served two non-consecutive terms as governor and is running for another one in November. He calls Hayes the state's "first lady."
Hayes, 47, had a difficult childhood and had been married twice before her wedding to Abraham. She said she knows the marriage was illegal.
"It was wrong then and it is wrong now and I am here today to accept the consequences, some of which will be life changing. And I cannot predict what direction this will go," Hayes said in a statement.