WASHINGTON – Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, has just announced that it filed a lawsuit against Florida Democrat Congressman Alcee Hastings on behalf of a female employee who was repeatedly subjected to “unwelcome sexual advances,” “unwelcome touching” and retaliation.
The alleged harassment and retaliation began in 2008, when Hastings was Chairman of the United States Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe. The Commission is also named as a defendant in the lawsuit. Also named is the Commission’s former staff director, Fred Turner. Judicial Watch filed the lawsuit on behalf of Commission employee Winsome Packer (Packer v. US Comm. On Security & Cooperation in Europe, and Hastings and Turner (CV No. 11-00485 D.D.C.).
According to Judicial Watch’s lawsuit, filed on Monday, March 7 with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia:
For over two years, from January 2008 through February 19, 2010, Ms. Packer was forced to endure unwelcome sexual advances, crude sexual comments, and unwelcome touching by Mr. Hastings while serving as the Representative of the Commission to the United States Mission to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Although Ms. Packer repeatedly rejected Mr. Hastings’ sexual attention and repeatedly complained about the harassment to the Commission Staff Director, Fred Turner, Mr. Hastings refused to stop sexually harassing her. Rather, Mr. Hastings and Mr. Turner began to retaliate against Ms. Packer—including making threats of termination—because she continued to object to Mr. Hastings’ conduct.
Ms. Packer was particularly vulnerable to such threats because she was a Republican working for the Democratically-controlled Commission, a point that both Mr. Hastings and Mr. Turner used to threaten and intimidate her. Eventually, the emotional distress, anxiety, and humiliation caused by the sexual harassment and retaliation caused Ms. Packer to suffer severe health problems and forced her to leave her prestigious position.
According to Judicial Watch’s complaint, “Mr. Hastings’ intention was crystal clear: he was sexually attracted to Ms. Packer, wanted a sexual relationship with her, and would help progress her career if she acquiesced to his sexual advances.” These advances included: Making multiple demands that Ms. Packer allow Rep. Hastings to stay in her apartment while she served as the Commission’s lead staff representative overseas; subjecting Ms. Packer to unwanted physical contact, including hugging her with both arms while pressing his body against her body and his face against her face; inviting her on multiple occasions to accompany him alone to his hotel room; making sexual comments and references to Ms. Packer, and asking Ms. Packer humiliating and inappropriate questions in public, such as “What kind of underwear are you wearing?”
After Ms. Packer repeatedly rebuffed these advances and reported them to her superior, Mr. Turner, and other officials (including Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD)), Hastings allegedly scolded her for not being a “sport” and for rejecting him after he had “come to [her] as a man does a woman.” He said he was very upset she had reported his behavior to Mr. Turner: “How dare you complain about me! You had better forget about being Republican.”
Moreover, Hastings and Turner then allegedly took retaliatory actions against Ms. Packer by repeatedly threatening her job at the Commission, by refusing to allow her to return from overseas to her position as Policy Advisor in Washington, D.C., and by intentionally marginalizing her from her colleagues. Hastings also pressured Ms. Packer to buy him personal gifts and make a campaign contribution to him.
As a direct result of Mr. Hastings’ sexual harassment, Ms. Packer experienced insomnia, anxiety, depression, high-blood pressure, and developed symptoms of coronary artery disease. At one point, these symptoms were so severe Ms. Packer collapsed and was rushed to the emergency room. Ms. Packer has been prescribed medication and is under the care of a physician because of the severity of her heart problems.
“The allegations against Alcee Hastings as detailed in this complaint are outrageous. Is Congress so far gone that its members think they can get away with the most base sexual harassment of staff! For two years Hastings subjected Ms. Packer to a never-ending barrage of unwanted sexual advances. And when Ms. Packer tried, time and again, to put a stop to it, he resorted to threats and intimidation to force her compliance. Even after Hastings’ behavior caused Ms. Packer’s physical collapse, he would not relent. We look forward to holding Alcee Hastings and the other defendants accountable for their unlawful behavior in court,” stated Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.
Hastings, a former federal judge, was impeached by the House and, after a trial, removed by the U.S. Senate from the bench in 1989 for bribery and perjury.
In response, Congressman Hastings issued the following statement:
“My comments will be limited since I have not seen the complaint filed in U.S. District Court by Judicial Watch. I have seen a draft complaint prepared by my accuser that contains numerous inaccuracies and untruths.
“I have never sexually harassed anyone. In fact, I am insulted that these ludicrous allegations are being made against me. When all the facts are known in this case, the prevailing sentiment will be, ‘How bizarre!’
“I will win this lawsuit. That is a certainty. In a race with a lie, the truth always wins. And when the truth comes to light and the personal agendas of my accusers are exposed, I will be vindicated.”