An unnamed former staffer with the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation claims in a lawsuit filed this week that she was raped by an employee, then later fired by Texas Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee for pursuing legal action.
The woman, identified as Jane Doe, was a 19-year-old intern with the CBCF in October 2015, when she alleges the intern coordinator, Damien Jones, plied her with alcohol and took advantage of her at his apartment.
The woman was working for Rep Terri Sewell at the time and did not initially pursue legal action, but she changed her mind in March 2018 after learning Jones was being considered for a position with Jackson Lee, Jane Doe’s new boss.
The lawsuit, filed on Jan. 11 and posted on the public docket Wednesday, contends that several weeks after Jane Doe told Jackson Lee’s chief of staff Glenn Rushing she planned to sue the CBCF, she was fired for alleged budget issues.
“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,” according to the suit.
The lawsuit details both the alleged rape and Jane Doe’s responsibilities in Jackson Lee’s office, which included driving the lawmaker around in her personal car, keeping the congresswoman’s phone in working order, coordinating interns and numerous other tasks, both for the congressional office and the CBCF.
Damien Jones was 30 years old when he asked Jane Doe out to dinner after work on October 2015, and the two went to Lauriol Plaza. Jones allegedly ordered a pitcher of margaritas to share and after dinner Jones ordered an Uber to stop at the liquor store on the way to his house, according to the lawsuit.
Once there, Jones continued to pour drinks for them both, and attempted to force Jane Doe to smoke marijuana, but she refused and tried to go home. Jane Doe texted a friend several times asking for help, but the messages devolved into garble and eventually stopped. The lawsuit alleges Jones kissed and groped the victim and put her in the shower, and she woke up naked in his bed.
Jones alleged told the victim she threw up, but denied having sex with her. Jane Doe reported the incident to Representative Sewell’s then chief of staff, Shashrina Thomas, as well as Sewell herself. She also submitted to a sexual exam at the hospital and reported the assault to the Metropolitan Police Department, which found Jones’ and another man’s DNA, “possibly Mr. Jones’s roommate,” the lawsuit alleges.
Jane Doe initially declined to pursue a lawsuit against the CBCF and graduated from college in May 2017. She then moved to New York City, but moved back to DC when she was hired by Jackson Lee in late 2017.
That’s when Jane Doe alleges she was forced to work for both the congressional office and the CBCF, including hauling Jackson Lee around in her personal car.
“At all times during Ms. Doe’s employment, Representative Jackson Lee served as the Chair if the Board of Directors of CBCF. Representative Jackson Lee instructed Ms. Doe to do extensive work for the CBCF while she worked in Representative Jackson Lee’s Congressional Office,” the lawsuit alleges.
“This work included helping to organize CBCF initiatives and events, and drafting and sending letters and emails promoting CBCF events and fundraising efforts. Specifically, Ms. Doe worked on an CBCF (sic)Economic Summit that Representative Jackson Lee organized; a study abroad program that sent CBCF interns to China; an internship program involving the NFLPA’ a CBCF retreat in New York City in December of 2018; and attended various other CBCF events.
“Whenever anyone sent an email to Representative Jackson Lee regarding the CBCF, the email was forwarded to Ms. Doe for action,” the suit alleges. “Upon information and belief the CBCF knew that Representative Jackson Lee routinely used her Congressional staff to do work on behalf of CBCF.”
The lawsuit claims Jane Doe was required to drive Jackson Lee home and to other events without any reimbursement, and her vehicle was damaged during one of the trips. Jane Doe alleges Jackson Lee still forced her to use the vehicle when it was unsafe to drive, and pressured her to find a new vehicle quickly to resume the shuttle service.
The lawmaker would also require Jane Doe to wait for her bags when she arrived at the airport so she didn’t have to, then curry the bags back to the office using a ride share.
Between January and March 2018, Jane Doe shopped for a new car while also reviving her rape complaint against Jones and the CBCF. The suit alleges that on March 29, as Jane Doe prepared to fly out to her home state of Alabama to pick up a new vehicle, she was called into a meeting with Jackson Lee’s chief of staff, Glenn Rushing, and chief counsel, Greg Berry, where she was fired for alleged budget reasons.
Jane Doe alleges Rushing also referenced the troubles with her car in the termination and alleged she was the last hired and first fired, though the lawsuit counters that claim. Other staff received a raise, and the office hired two new staff, around the same time, according to the lawsuit.
“Representative Jackson Lee, who then served as the Chair of the Board of CBCF, terminated Ms. Doe in an effort to protect the CBCF from embarrassment and financial liability and only after Ms. Doe stated her intention to move forward with legal action against CBCF,” the lawsuit claims.
Jane Doe now suffers “severe emotional distress” that caused her to lose 50 pounds and cut her hair to appear less attractive to men. She also no longer dates or goes out at night and takes medication for diagnosed PTSD tied to the attack, according to the lawsuit.
And because she no longer has health insurance and is living with her mom in Alabama, she can no longer continue therapy she started after the attack.
The lawsuit seeks an “excess of $75,000” for the “emotional distress damages as a result of CCF’s intentional infliction of emotional distress,” as well as punitive damages, attorney’s fees and court costs.
Representatives for Jane Doe, the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, and Jones either declined comment or did not respond to BuzzFeed.
Rushing told the site “We had nothing to do with any of the actions that have been cited and the person was not wrongfully terminated.”
There’s no record of Jones facing criminal charges from the attack, and he later went on to work in other Democratic circles, most recently for former representative Beto O’Rourke’s failed Senate campaign, according to BuzzFeed.