SACRAMENTO (AP) — A former California lawmaker who resigned over sexual misconduct allegations is suing his accuser for defamation despite an investigator’s preliminary findings that her story is likely true.
Former Assemblyman Matt Dababneh filed a lawsuit Tuesday claiming lobbyist Pamela Lopez defamed him by alleging he pushed her into a bathroom and masturbated in front of her during a 2016 party in a Las Vegas hotel suite. He denies the allegation.
Lopez’s lawyer, Jean Hyams, said Dababneh’s suit is an act of retaliation and an attempt to silence women.
“Our reaction is concern that women who read this will be chilled from speaking out and making reports to their employers, to public agencies like the Legislature,” Hyams said. “We want women to know that they have a right to report sexual assault and sexual harassment and we will be fighting any attempts to silence or punish Ms. Lopez for speaking out.”
Deborah Maddux, a lawyer hired by the Legislature to investigate Lopez’s claims, found them to be substantiated based on “interviews with witnesses and a review of relevant documents,” according to a letter the Assembly Rules Committee sent Lopez in June.
Lopez did not receive a copy of the investigation report, which the Assembly letter says is subject to attorney-client privilege. Dababneh says he also did not receive a copy.
Dababneh is appealing Maddux’s determination, arguing the letter he received from the Assembly explaining she found he violated the Assembly’s sexual harassment policy did not cite evidence. In his appeal, he argues he was denied “due process” because the Assembly will not provide him with a copy of the investigation report. He also alleges Maddux did not interview some character witnesses he provided contact information for.
Kevin Liao, a spokesman for Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, said he did not know when the investigation into Dababneh’s appeal would be complete.
Dababneh, a Los Angeles Democrat, was forced by Assembly leadership and colleagues to resign in December because of Lopez’s allegations, according to his lawsuit.
In his lawsuit, Dababneh says he does not drink alcoholic beverages but accuses Lopez of having several drinks at the 2016 party where she says the assault occurred.
He also says he has suffered depression and anxiety as a result of Lopez’s allegations, according to the lawsuit. He seeks unspecified damages for defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress.