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Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee Accused Of Firing Staffer Over Rape Allegation

The alleged victim claims she was sacked after sharing plans to sue the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation over the 2015 incident.
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) is accused of unlawfully firing a staff member after hearing of the woman’s plans to
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) is accused of unlawfully firing a staff member after hearing of the woman’s plans to file a lawsuit against the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, where Jackson Lee chairs the board of directors.

A former staffer of Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) has filed a lawsuit accusing her of unlawful termination in retaliation for pursuing legal action over an alleged sexual assault by Damien Jones, a former employee of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation.

In a lawsuit filed last week, the woman, identified only as Jane Doe, accuses Jones of raping her in October 2015, when she was a 19-year-old intern and he was her 30-year-old supervisor at the CBCF, where Jackson Lee chairs the board of directors.

The woman claims he got her blackout drunk and invited her to his apartment, where he and possibly his roommate sexually assaulted her. She reported the alleged assault to D.C.’s Metropolitan Police Department and had a rape kit exam performed, according to her lawsuit, which BuzzFeed first reported.

Sperm was recovered from her pants, her lawsuit states, but investigators were not able to get “a sufficient DNA profile” of whom it belonged to. Jones’ DNA, which was tested as part of the investigation, was found on her breasts.

Jones allegedly denied that they had sex and told her that after she “threw up everywhere,” he removed her clothes and put her in the shower and then to bed at his apartment. Text messages that Doe said she sent to a friend during the incident allegedly show her requesting help and wanting to leave his place but not knowing where she was.

She said she reported the alleged assault to the CBCF, which placed Jones on leave, and to her former boss Rep. Terri Sewell (D-Ala.). Jones’ LinkedIn profile lists him as leaving the CBCF that December, roughly two months after the alleged assault.

It’s not clear how the CBCF, which is a defendant in the suit, addressed the allegations against Jones. He and a CBCF representative did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Thursday.

In September 2017, Jones appeared on a panel at the CBCF’s annual legislative conference, according to the event’s website.

Doe’s lawsuit states that she went on to take a job with Jackson Lee in late 2017 and on her first day learned that Jones had expressed interested in also working for the congresswoman. Doe discussed her concerns about Jones with Jackson Lee’s chief of staff, Glenn Rushing, who assured her that Jones would not be hired.

Her suit says that she carried on with her role with Jackson Lee and had a good standing with her office until last March, when she shared her plans to take legal action against the CBCF over the alleged assault. Just days later, she said her employment was abruptly terminated, with Jackson Lee’s office citing budget concerns.

“Prior to Ms. Doe telling Mr. Rushing that she was moving forward with legal action, Mr. Rushing and Representative Jackson Lee both stated on several occasions that they were pleased with Ms. Doe’s performance,” her suit states.

Doe’s lawsuit maintains that her career was derailed as a result of her firing and that she suffered lost wages. Her lawsuit seeks more than $75,000 in damages and a jury trial.

A spokesman for Jackson Lee’s office initially referred questions to Rushing, who did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

UPDATE: 5 p.m. — In a statement released by Jackson Lee’s office on Thursday, she denied having retaliated against or improperly treated Doe. Her office added that she is unable to discuss specific details about the case because of office policy.

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