Rep. Tony Cárdenas, a California Democrat, is denying allegations of “childhood sexual abuse” made against him in an LA County lawsuit involving a woman who was then 16 years old.
In the lawsuit filed last week, which was first reported by the Los Angeles Times, the woman claims a Los Angeles elected official — identified only as John Doe — gave her ice water that tasted “peculiar” while golfing in 2007, after which she collapsed. The woman, who is identified only as Jane Doe in the documents, said the politician drove her to the emergency room and fondled her on the way.
“Mr. Doe reached his hands inside Ms. Doe’s shirt and rubbed her breasts. Mr. Doe then reached down her shorts and fondled her vagina,” the lawsuit alleges. The filings also say Jane Doe did not report the incident to police at the time.
Cárdenas, through a lawyer, identified himself as the John Doe named in the lawsuit Thursday, but denied the allegations, as first reported by the Washington Post.
The lawsuit also claims that on one occasion, when Jane Doe was at her father’s workplace, she found herself alone with Cárdenas and didn’t laugh at a joke he made. Cárdenas’s alleged response was, “remember where your dad works,” which Jane Doe said in the lawsuit was perceived as a “threat against her family’s security.”
Patricia Glaser, Cárdenas’s lawyer, called the allegations “categorically untrue” in a statement provided to BuzzFeed News. “These claims against the Congressman are absolutely false and are utterly inconsistent with who he is — in the workplace, in the community, and at home. The complainant is the daughter of a disgruntled former employee and may be the victim of manipulation,” Glaser said.
According to the lawsuit, Jane Doe was encouraged to come forward now in part because of the #MeToo movement.
The woman in the lawsuit is represented by Lisa Bloom, a prominent attorney known for her work on sexual harassment cases.
“I represent the young woman who, carefully following California law, filed this action against the defendant named only as John Doe. Once the court grants us leave to name the defendant, we will do so,” Bloom said in a statement to BuzzFeed News. (California law requires that the defendant in a child sex abuse case not be named until a judge has deemed there is sufficient evidence for the case to move forward, according to the Los Angeles Times.)
Cárdenas has been in Congress since 2013. Before that, he had served on the Los Angeles City Council since 2003; he would have been on the city council when the alleged sexual abuse took place. He also previously served in the California State Assembly.
Cárdenas is the chair of Bold PAC, the campaign arm of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. He also serves on House Democratic leadership as a caucus leadership representative, a position he describes on his website as “a voice for members who have served five terms or less.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s office did not respond to a request for comment. Bold PAC also did not immediately respond to an inquiry from BuzzFeed News.