Campbell to Appeal Harassment Verdict

Posted June 24, 2008 at 6:50pm

Lobbyist Jeanne Campbell, whose former employee was awarded more than $800,000 by a D.C. Superior Court jury last week in a sexual harassment suit, said she will appeal the court’s decision.

“We disagree with the verdict,” she said in a statement. “We believe that this case provides ample reasons to challenge the outcome and we intend to pursue those avenues vigorously in an appeal which will be filed shortly.”

The sexual harassment case dates back to 2005 when Campbell’s then-employee, Sasha Stamenkovic, first filed the civil suit in D.C. Superior Court.

At that time, both worked at Campbell-Crane & Associates, the lobbying firm Campbell first founded in the 1980s as Campbell-Raupe.

Campbell’s former associate, Dan Crane, who now runs the Crane Group, testified on behalf of Stamenkovic at the trial.

Crane declined to comment on the Stamenkovic case. In a separate case, set for trial in D.C. Superior Court on Oct. 20, Campbell is suing Crane for breach of contract and other matters.

Stamenkovic’s lawyer, Michael Hoare, said he was not surprised that Campbell’s side was planning to file an appeal. “We’ll do whatever is necessary to support the jury’s verdict,” he said.

The eight-person jury concluded the weeklong trial on June 16 when it decided that Campbell had sexually harassed Stamenkovic and then had retaliated against his lawsuit by firing him.

The jury awarded Stamenkovic, a Serbian immigrant, $812,000, almost all of it for pain and suffering. The jury, however, sided with Campbell in deciding not to award Stamenkovic punitive damages.

A doctor and witness for Stamenkovic testified that his patient was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder because of the harassment.

“It is a horrible irony that the plaintiff’s claim, that he is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder from allegedly being sexually harassed by a woman boss, makes a mockery of real cases of PTSD experienced by American soldiers severely wounded fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Campbell, 68, said in an interview.

In a complaint filed with the court in 2005, Stamenkovic, who at the time was 29, alleged that “Defendant Campbell advised Plaintiff that he would progress faster in her company and make more money if he were to have sex with her.”

Before joining Campbell-Crane as a vice president, Stamenkovic had been Campbell’s personal trainer at a fitness club. As Stamenkovic’s employer, Campbell was the sponsor of his effort to obtain a green card, which gave Campbell considerable power, Hoare said.

Campbell, however, said Hoare has overstated her control over Stamenkovic’s immigration status.

“I tried to help this man, a native of Serbia who dreaded returning to his country for fear of having to serve in the military, by giving him a job and providing him with a visa that is portable,” she said.

“He could have quit his job at any time and easily found new jobs when he was fired for misconduct on the job,” Campbell added.

During the trial, Hoare said that Stamenkovic and two others testified that Campbell hosted parties at her Northwest Washington, D.C., home where she swam topless in her pool.

Hoare said Stamenkovic also testified that Campbell “exposed herself” to him during a conference on Cape Cod, an event she organized for corporate clients and Members of Congress, and that sex was a frequent topic of conversation in the firm.

Campbell said that’s not true. “I categorically deny what he says,” she said.

Campbell said Hoare had twisted her words and taken out of context isolated incidents, including an e-mail she wrote to Stamenkovic while on medication after surgery.

In that e-mail she said: “Last time at the pool you danced with a lot of girls. … I think you can dance with me at this party. … You are getting to be mature and have more wisdom — like the wisdom to dance with GGG (sic) — GreenCardGirl.”

Campbell said the e-mail was sent in response to a phone call from Stamenkovic earlier that day inviting her to a birthday party.

She added that her doctors sent letters verifying that the e-mail was sent the same day she was sedated for oral surgery. She called it the one time she sent him a “goofy” e-mail.

“I am extremely optimistic as to the final outcome,” she said.