Congress

Woman drops sexual abuse case against Rep. Tony Cárdenas

Cárdenas says ‘the truth prevailed’; plaintiff says she wishes she would have chosen a better lawyer

Rep. Tony Cardenas, D-Calif., hailed the resolution of the sexual abuse case against him, saying “the truth prevailed.” It's unclear if he will face a House ethics investigation. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The sexual abuse case against Democratic Rep. Tony Cárdenas reached a resolution, but the reason remains unknown to the public.

The woman who accused Cárdenas of molesting her as a 16-year-old dropped her civil case against the congressman on Wednesday. A Los Angeles Superior Court judge granted her request that it be dismissed with prejudice, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Under the terms, Angela Villela Chavez, now 28, cannot refile her suit and receives no compensation, while Cárdenas cannot sue her for malicious prosecution.

Cárdenas, who has denied the allegation, hailed the conclusion of the case and said in a statement that “the truth prevailed.” 

The resolution follows a motion to withdraw from the case filed by Chavez’s attorney, Lisa Bloom, two months ago. Bloom cited the State Bar’s Rules of Professional Conduct and said ethics rules prevented her from disclosing a reason. Two lawyers assigned to the case recently parted ways with the firm, the Times reported

Chavez said she regretted choosing Bloom as her attorney.

“I’m still a victim, and I just wish I would have chose better representation than I did,” she said in an interview with The Washington Post.

In her suit against Cárdenas, she alleged he touched her inappropriately while driving her to the emergency room. She had collapsed after drinking a glass of water handed to her by Cárdenas that tasted odd, she said. 

Chavez said she was inspired in part by the #MeToo movement to bring the suit. Though referred to in court documents as “Jane Doe,” she made her name known to the media following the Senate testimony of Christine Blasey Ford against now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh last year.

It’s unknown what implications, if any, the conclusion of the civil suit will have on any investigation by the Office of Congressional Ethics or House Ethics Committee.

Last year, then-Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said she would “withhold judgement” on the allegations against the fellow California Democrat but called for a probe by House ethics watchdogs. 

Cárdenas represents the 29th District in the eastern San Fernando Valley and serves in the House leadership as a member of Majority Leader Steny Hoyer’s whip team.

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