A new report from Buzzfeed News details shocking allegations against Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) — that the long-time House Democrat may have retaliated against a former staffer who was planning to sue the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation over their lack of interest in a rape allegation.
In a lawsuit filed earlier this week, the former staffer — identified only as "Jane Doe" — accuses Jackson Lee of firing her because she intended to make public "an alleged rape by a former employee of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation."
"The woman, identified in court papers ... alleges she was raped in October 2015, when she was a 19-year-old intern for the CBCF, by the foundation’s intern coordinator at the time, Damien Jones," Buzzfeed reports. "The woman said she reported the alleged rape to police and told several people, including Rep. Terri Sewell, her former boss and a distant relative of her mother’s, but did not pursue legal action at the time."
Years later, when Jane Doe was working as an aide to Jackson Lee, she says she decided to take action and sue the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation for ignoring her claims of sexual assault. Jane Doe then says she spoke about the matter to her boss, Jackson Lee's Chief of Staff Glenn Rushing, and asked to speak to Lee directly.
Doe claims she never heard back from Rushing and that Lee never offered her a meeting. Two weeks later, she was fired.
The details of the alleged attack are shocking. Doe claims she was plied with drink and drugs after a Congressional Black Caucus Foundation fundraiser, and that the staffer, Damien Jones, pressured her to have sex, and when she refused, had sex with her against her will, leaving her with a series of injuries.
Doe claims she has text messages to prove she believed she was in danger of being raped.
According to the complaint, on Oct. 24, 2015, Jones invited Jane Doe to dinner, where she said he ordered a large quantity of drinks. She said that he then took her back to his home, poured more drinks, and that her memory became foggy about the rest of the night. She said she sent a series of text messages to a friend that night, including, “Help,” “I’m want t[sic] to go home,” and “I’m ready to cry,” and told the friend she was with the intern coordinator but did not know where she was.
Doe went to a hospital, where she was treated for apparent injuries, including to her cervix and vagina, and swabbed for evidence. No charges were filed, and Jones denied — to Doe at the time — that anything sexual had taken place.
She later reported the alleged assault to the Metropolitan Police Department in DC — the lawsuit does not specify when — and, according to the lawsuit, investigators found sperm on the pants she was wearing the night she was with Jones, but couldn’t get a “sufficient DNA profile.” Police got a search warrant for Jones’ DNA and found his DNA on Jane Doe’s breast, and concluded he could not “be excluded” as the source of DNA on her neck, according to the complaint.
Doe's alleged attacker, the lawsuit says, still runs in Democratic circles, and most recently worked on Beto O'Rourke's campaign. Buzzfeed News was unable to get a comment from the alleged perpetrator, and the O'Rourke campaign says it terminated its relationship with him, likely when O'Rourke's campaign ended.
She claims she contacted both the CBCF and Jackson Lee at separate times about the alleged sexual assault, but that she received no help in response — only her eventual termination. Doe alleges that Jackson Lee's office coordinated her dismissal with officials from the CBCF.
Jackson Lee's office says they'll respond substantively to the claim, but for now, denies the allegations.
"Although the Congresswoman is eager to respond substantively, she will do so only at the appropriate time, as the court docket dictates. The Congresswoman is confident that, once all of the facts come to light, her Office will be exonerated of any retaliatory or otherwise improper conduct and this matter will be put to rest," Jackson Lee's office said in a statement to Buzzfeed. "While we still deny the allegations, we are especially concerned about Ms. Doe and only want the best for her and the many, many young people that the Congressional office has supported, encouraged, and provided opportunities for over 20 years."