Valley Assemblyman Matt Dababneh accused of sexually assaulting Sacramento lobbyist
|| LA Daily News
“Assemblyman Matt Dababneh was accused by two women Monday of sexual misconduct, becoming the latest Los Angeles-area state legislator to face allegations of harassment.
At a news conference in Sacramento, lobbyist Pamela Lopez said that Dababneh, a Democrat who represents the West San Fernando Valley, pushed her into a bathroom during a 2016 party at a Las Vegas hotel and masturbated in front of her. Former legislative staffer Jessica Yas Barker said Dababneh regularly made inappropriate comments when both worked for Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Sherman Oaks.
Dababneh put out a statement Monday afternoon denying Lopez’s charge.
“I affirmatively deny that this event ever happened — at any time,” the statement said. “I am saddened by this lobbyist’s effort to create this falsehood and make these inflammatory statements, apparently for her own self-promotion and without regard to the reputation of others. I look forward to clearing my name.”
But at least one San Fernando Valley elected official, Los Angeles school board member Kelly Gonez, called on Dababneh to resign.
Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-South Gate, said Dababneh would step down as chairman of the Assembly Banking and Finance Committee while an investigation of the Lopez incident is investigated by an outside law firm hired by the Assembly Rules Committee.
The allegations came after weeks of rumors about Dababneh as cases of sexual harassment have come to light in California politics and other industries.
A week earlier, Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra, D-Arleta, announced he was resigning immediately as harassment charges against him grew, and state Sen. Tony Mendoza, D-Cerritos, was stripped of committee leadership positions pending an investigation of harassment allegations.
Also last week, Lopez testified at an Assembly subcommittee hearing on sexual harassment about an incident involving a state legislator. But she didn’t identify Dababneh as the legislator until Monday.
Lopez described the incident in a letter to Assemblyman Ken Cooley, D-Rancho Cordova, and other lawmakers, including Assemblywoman Laura Friedman, D-Burbank, chairwoman of the Assembly Rules Subcommittee on Harassment, Discrimination and Retaliation Prevention and Response.
“On January 16, 2016, Mr. Dababneh and I were two of the many invited guests at a party to celebrate two mutual friends who were planning to get married,” Lopez’s letter read. “Most of the guests in attendance were political professionals, including many colleagues and associates I have known for years. I should have had no reason to fear for my safety.
“When I went to the bathroom after being at the party for a few hours, I felt the weight of a body push me into the restroom. I heard the door slam behind us. When I turned around, I saw that it was Matt Dababneh. He stood blocking the door and began to masturbate and move toward me, urging me to touch him.
“It was a terrifying experience. During the time he blocked me in that room, my instincts were focused on escaping without any physical contact and in a way that would not cause a scene. Before the ordeal ended, he told me not to tell anyone.”
Lopez wrote that she was moved to identify Dababneh after hearing members of the Assembly subcommittee say they were committed to protecting victims of sexual harassment from retaliation.
She said Dababneh, through his attorney, “has tried to silence me by threatening to sue me for defamation if I persisted in reporting this assault.”
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