Congress

Former staffer sues Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee for firing her after rape allegation

In court filings, the staffer alleges a former intern coordinator raped her in October 2015

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, participates in a press conference with House Judiciary Committee Democrats on Thursday, April 12, 2018. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

A former staffer for Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee claims in a new lawsuit that the Texas Democrat fired her after she planned to pursue legal action over an alleged rape by a former Congressional Black Caucus Foundation employee.

According to the court filings, the staffer alleges that Damien Jones, a former intern coordinator for the CBCF, raped her at his D.C.-area home in October 2015. The staffer, identified as Jane Doe in the lawsuit, was a 19-year-old intern for the CBCF when the alleged assault happened.

The lawsuit, filed on Jan. 11, details that the staffer reported the rape to police and told two members of Congress: Democratic Rep. Terri A. Sewell of Alabama and Jackson Lee. She did not pursue legal action at the time of the alleged rape.

The complaint says that after she told Sewell — a distant relative of Jane Doe’s mother — Sewell called Jane Doe’s mother without her permission.

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The lawsuit claims that a month after the alleged assault, Jane Doe met with representatives of the CBCF. They told the woman that Jones would be placed on leave.

According to the lawsuit, Jane Doe told the CBCF in October 2016 that she planned to file a lawsuit, but did not at the time.

The woman identified as Jane Doe was hired by Jackson Lee’s congressional office in late 2017, the lawsuit said. When she learned in March 2018 that Jones was being considered for a job in the office, she alerted Lee’s chief of staff Glenn Rushing of a “prior situation” with Jones.

Rushing allegedly told her that Jones was not hired “because he had a situation with CBCF, and they could not have him working in the office as a result.”

The woman alleges in the court documents that in March 2018 she personally asked to speak with the congresswoman — who is also the chair of the board for the CBCF — about pursuing legal action, but Jackson Lee refused.

She was fired several weeks later.

“The Office of Representative Sheila Jackson Lee and CBCF (for which Representative Jackson Lee serves as the Board Chair) unlawfully retaliated against Ms. Doe after Ms. Doe threatened to sue the CBCF because another CBCF employee (Damien Jones) raped Ms. Doe while he was Ms. Doe’s supervisor,” the court filings read.

The lawsuit does not indicate that Jones faced criminal charges, and there are not records of court filings against Jones in District of Columbia Superior Court. Jones continued his political career, most recently serving as a regional director for Beto O’Rourke’s Senate campaign in Texas.

The lawsuit filed by Jane Doe includes claims against Jackson Lee, individually, and against the CBCF. BuzzFeed News first reported on the court filing

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