Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.) denied allegations Thursday that he sexually abused a 16-year-old girl more than a decade ago after informing colleagues that he is the unnamed defendant in a lawsuit filed late last week.
“My client is sickened and distraught by these horrific allegations, which are 100%, categorically untrue,” Cárdenas’ attorney Patricia Glaser said in a statement. “To reiterate, these claims against the Congressman are absolutely false and utterly inconsistent with who he is — in the workplace, in the community, and at home.”
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Cárdenas is listed as “John Doe” in the lawsuit, which was filed in Los Angeles County on Friday, but has told fellow House Democrats he is the defendant in the case, according to three Democratic aides. California law has restrictions on naming defendants in cases involving child sexual abuse.
“I represent the young woman who, carefully following California law, filed this action against the defendant named only as John Doe,” said attorney Lisa Bloom in a statement. “Once the court grants us leave to name the defendant, we will do so.”
In the lawsuit, first reported by the Los Angeles Times, Cárdenas allegedly befriended the plaintiff, who was 14 years old at the time, and her family after meeting at a golf tournament in 2005. He then invited the unnamed woman to play golf in 2007, during which he allegedly gave her a cup of water she described as having an “unusual taste,” according to the Times.
The teenager “collapsed to the ground” and was driven to the emergency room by Cárdenas, according to the lawsuit. “During the ride, he reached inside her shirt and rubbed her breasts, the suit alleges. He also reached down her shorts and fondled her vagina, according to the suit,” the Times reported.
Cárdenas has been making calls to several House Democrats in recent days to proclaim his innocence in the case, according to three Democratic aides. Cárdenas’ outreach has included calls to House Democratic leaders, members of the California delegation and close friends within the caucus, according to multiple sources.
Cárdenas is chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’ political action committee and serves as Democratic caucus representative, a lower-tier position in party leadership.
Cárdenas is the latest member of Congress to be accused of sexual harassment or abuse after the rise of the #MeToo movement, with several lawmakers forced to resign or retire.
Cárdenas has served in the House since 2013. He was previously a member of the L.A. City Council and served in the California State Assembly. Cárdenas was a city council member during the time of the alleged abuse.
The Washington Post first reported that Cárdenas was identifying himself to House colleagues as the defendant in the lawsuit.
Glaser called the allegations “baseless and reckless,” saying the claims can “ruin the lives and careers of innocent people.” She went on to describe the woman who filed the suit as “the daughter of a disgruntled former employee and [she] may be the victim of manipulation.”