Former Assemblyman Matt Dababneh, who resigned last year amid allegations of sexual harassment and assault, is suing the Sacramento lobbyist who accused him of pushing her into a hotel bathroom and masturbating in front of her.
In a complaint filed Tuesday in Sacramento County court, the Los Angeles Democrat sued Pamela Lopez for defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress. He is seeking unspecified damages.
Lopez held a press conference last December to name Dababneh as the California lawmaker who in 2016, forcibly followed her into the bathroom in a suite at a Las Vegas hotel, told her to touch his genitals and masturbated as she was pressed against the wall. Dababneh immediately denied the episode, but four days later, he announced his resignation and said he was leaving office to focus on clearing his name
In his lawsuit, Dababneh alleges that Lopez “fabricated a reprehensible and self-serving story” that “irreparably diminished” his standing in the political community and subjected him to “opprobrium and threats on social media sites.” He says he was pressured by Assembly leadership and his colleague to resign.
“From the first day that these allegations were made, Matthew Dababneh has maintained that he is innocent,” his attorney, Patty Glaser, said in a statement. “Unfortunately, my client was presumed guilty in this matter from the start, and was never given due process. Mr. Dababneh remains steadfast in his innocence, and yet has still not had an opportunity to share his evidence in an impartial setting.”
Jean Hyams, Lopez’s lawyer, said it was “appalling” that Dababneh had “chosen to engage in retaliation against one of the many women who’ve spoken out about he treatment they’ve suffered at his hands.”
An Assembly investigation of her claim is ongoing, according to documents obtained by The Sacramento Bee.
In a June 25 letter, the Assembly Rules Committee wrote that, after interviewing Dababneh and 52 witnesses, an outside investigator concluded the incident more likely than not occurred.
Dababneh appealed the decision four days later. In a lengthy response, his attorneys said the investigator told Dababneh he would be allowed to respond to any evidence supporting Lopez’s accusations, but he was never presented with any. The appeal also alleges that the Assembly dragged out the investigation by looking into other unsubstantiated claims of sexual harassment against Dababneh while ignoring 14 character witnesses he provided.
Late last month, Dababneh filed campaign finance reports showing that he transferred more than a million dollars this spring from his Assembly campaign account into a committee that he could use to run for future office.
Editor’s note: This post was updated at 11 a.m. on Aug. 15 with Hyams’ comment.