Four California legislators have resigned since 2017 after facing sexual harassment complaints, while two remain in office. All are Democrats from Southern California.
Wednesday afternoon, investigation documents were released about sexual harassment allegations of former Assemblyman Sebastian Ridley-Thomas (D-Los Angeles). The investigation found the Assemblyman made repeated unwanted sexual advances and gestures toward a female Capitol staffer two years ago.
Attorney Vida Thomas, hired by the Assembly, presented factual findings against Ridley-Thomas after investigating relevant documents and interviewing 15 individuals, according to Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon in a letter to Ridley-Thomas.
Ridley-Thomas, the son of Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, resigned in December 2017 citing health issues, the Los Angeles Times reported. At the time he stepped down in August, Ridley-Thomas was under investigation for two sexual harassment complaints.
In the just-released report, the unnamed sexual harassment victim said that she had several uncomfortable experiences with Assemblyman Ridley-Thomas.
The investigation report detailed the victim’s experiences with Ridley-Thomas:
“Ridley-Thomas has taken a liking to me and made me feel uncomfortable. He shakes hands and lingers a little too long. He goes out of his way to talk to me. He winked at me.”
“Mr. Ridley-Thomas said he wanted to meet me for dinner. I met him at approximately 6:30pm. We sat on the patio. He then moved to sit next to me. I was sitting on a bench. He said he had always been obsessed with me, didn’t I know that? I said no. He held my hand when I got up to leave.”
“It made me very uncomfortable. He walked me to my car and he basically kissed me. He tried to put his tongue in my mouth. I could feel his erect penis on my leg. I told him I wasn’t interested.”
“He called my cell phone several times after this incident. Once he called in the car. He sent texts.”
The investigation also confirmed that a second woman had filed a complaint against Ridley-Thomas.
“In a statement, Ridley-Thomas’ lawyer Nancy Sheehan said the investigation “defied any definition of due process and objectivity.” Her client provided evidence refuting the claims against him, she said,” The Sacramento Bee reported.
In late 2017, two Assemblymen, Raul Bocanegra (D-Pacoima), and Matt Dababneh (D-Woodland Hills), resigned under serious allegations of sexual harassment.
A female lobbyist accused Dababneh of shoving her into a bathroom and masturbating in front of her while they were at a party in Las Vegas in 2016.
Bocanegra resigned after multiple women accused him of inappropriate behavior.
A third lawmaker, state Sen. Tony Mendoza (D-Artesia), resigned in early 2018 after an investigation found it was likely he made unwanted advances to half a dozen women. Mendoza and former Senate President Kevin de Leon were roommates while they served in the Senate, and de Leon was overseeing the investigation.
Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens), a early leader in the state Capitol’s #MeToo movement, was accused and investigated for sexual harassment following allegations by a former staffer and a lobbyist who claimed that she had cornered and groped them.
However, the internal investigation by the Assembly Rules Committee abruptly ended the investigation when it was revealed that Garcia threatened to start naming the names of other lawmakers she had sexual relations with. The investigation by attorney Vida Thomas failed to interview all of the witnesses in the Garcia case, according to Garcia’s accusers. Garcia did not resign.
Sen. Bob Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys), was ordered to stop his lingering hugging of co-workers after an investigation found “several instances of unwanted hugging and touching,” and “inappropriately hugging and pressing his groin against a former state assemblywoman.” Hertzberg did not resign.
Other lawmakers were accused and admonished for “inappropriate locker room talk,” uncomfortable “foot sliding under a table,” “shoulder rubbing,” and “noogies.”
Within months of resigning from the State Assembly for health concerns, Ridley-Thomas, 30, was hired to join the faculty of University of Southern California as a professor of practice of policy and social work. Because he did not have a graduate degree, Ridley-Thomas was granted a scholarship by USC to pursue a master’s degree. USC is located in his County Supervisor father’s district.
Ridley-Thomas was fired by USC in August 2018 after it was revealed a $100,000 donation that his father, Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, made from his campaign account to USC in May, CBS Los Angeles reported. The $100,000 was traced to the account of a nonprofit group unaffiliated with the university, run by the son, former Assemblyman Sebastian Ridley-Thomas.
USC turned the matter over to the U.S. Attorney’s Office to conduct a criminal investigation.
Lastly, it appears former Assemblyman Sebastian Ridley-Thomas, one day after the Assembly investigation was released verifying sexual harassment allegation against him, has registered with the California Secretary of State as a new lobbyist.
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