Friday, October 03, 2008

Congressman Al Green In the News: Shakedown or Sexual Assault?

Last week, Texas Congressman, Al Green, filed a declaratory judgment seeking injunctive relief against Lucinda Daniels, a former employee who allegedly approached Green demanding 1.8M for an incident that occurred in May 2007. An incident he claims was a "romantic moment" and she alleges was a "sexual assault." Green filed the suit to prevent what he calls a shakedown for money.

So what's really going on? Is this a sexual harassment case or a sexual assault case? Well, I guess that depends on which attorney you talk to.

Green tells reporters (and the pleadings state) that Daniels threatened him with a sexual harassment/workplace discrimination/retaliation case which centers on the "romantic moment" in 2007. This seems outlandish because it doesn't make sense for Daniels, an attorney herself, to threaten a Title VII suit now. The statute of limitations has long since passed. And Green's attorney has seemingly jumped the gun by filing a suit asking a federal court to make a decision on an anticipatory sexual harassment suit. Isn't Green just wasting the court's time with this frivolous suit? In his pleading, there is no legal argument only inflammatory allegations about Daniels. Allegations bordering on defamation.

As of the date of Green's filing, Daniels had not yet reported the incident to police or filed any suit. Daniels' attorney, Chip Lewis, told the Houston Chronicle that Daniels admittedly did approach Green and threaten suit because Daniels was "hoping to spare herself the embarrassment of going public and going to the police about the May 2007 incident" but now will make a sexual assault complaint and file a civil suit (assault) against Green. NOT a Title VII sexual harassment/workplace retaliation claim.

Did Green play right into Daniels' lawyer hands? The last time I checked, the name of a victim of sexual assault is protected by law from being released thus ensuring that the victim has some privacy and will not be persecuted by the media. True there isn't a case yet but why is her attorney blabbing to all the newspapers? Kind of lends some credibility to Green's "shakedown" theory.

Now, Daniels will be further criticized for her delay and also her approach. Her attorney admitted that she asked for a payoff which is outrageous and harmful when considering the big picture. The picture that includes all women who are sexually assaulted. Asking for a big cash settlement harms victims because it undermines their credibility and also the DA's case. Sexual assault should never be for sale at any price because it does not punish the behaviour nor does it serve as a deterrent.

It will be interesting to see if this case develops further and if Daniels does go to the police. Once she reports to the police, the process is out of her hands. The DA takes over from there. She'll have less leverage unless the DA refuses to go trial while she has a civil suit pending or if she settles with the accused before trial. Remember Kobe Bryant? The victim in that case agreed to a settlement and the charges were mysteriously dropped. Will this be more of the same? Stay tuned!