San Fernando Valley assemblyman accused of sexual misconduct

Monday, December 04, 2017 06:25PM
A lobbyist from the California State Capitol on Monday named a state assemblyman of the San Fernando Valley who she says sexually assaulted her.


SACRAMENTO, Calif. - A lobbyist from the California State Capitol on Monday named a state assemblyman of the San Fernando Valley who she says sexually assaulted her.

In a morning press conference, Pamela Lopez said Matt Dababneh, a Woodland Hills Democrat representing the 45th Assembly District, locked her in a bathroom and masturbated in front of her during an event in 2016.

Lopez spoke out to the media last week about the allegation, but did not name the perpetrator due to fear of retaliation.

She said that after the incident, she told only her closest friends and asked them to keep it a secret from anyone at her workplace.

"I was terrified of being shunned or retaliated against if the Capitol community knew what happened to me," Lopez said.

Lopez explained that the incident occurred at a friend's wedding celebration in Las Vegas. She said she went into the restroom and "felt a body brush up behind me, use the weight of their body to push me into the restroom and heard the door slam behind us."

She went on to say that she turned around and realized she was face-to-face with Dababneh, who "very quickly exposed himself and begun masturbating."

"I started backing up and he moved toward me while he was masturbating and in explicit terms told me to touch his genitals. I said several times, 'No, I will not touch you. No, I will not touch you,'" Lopez recalled.

An attorney representing Lopez said a lawyer for Dababneh sent a cease and desist letter "attempting to stop Lopez from speaking out."

"This is the kind of tactic that frequently follows when men in positions of power and great amounts of resources learn that their behavior may be exposed," the attorney said, adding that women who come forward are constantly threatened with defamation lawsuits and more.
"But the shame does not belong to the women who are being harassed, the shame belongs to the perpetrator," she added.

A second woman, Jessica Yas Barker, also came forward during the press conference, claiming sexual harassment but not criminal assault. Yas Barker worked with Dababneh in Rep. Brad Sherman's San Fernando Valley office from 2009 to 2010, before Dababneh was elected to the Assembly.

"His conduct ranges from unwanted touching to verbal abuse, verbal harassment and much worse," Yas Barker said. "These women fear coming out because of the retaliation."

Yas Barker said she never reported Dababneh's behavior.

Sherman issued a statement in response to the claims, saying in part, "I personally feel terrible that anyone was made to feel uncomfortable while working in my office. We are redoubling our efforts to make sure that my offices are safe and comfortable places for women and men to work."

Lopez said she met Dababneh a handful of times over the course of several years and essentially knew him through colleagues who work in politics.

She said she's not calling for Dababneh to resign but is looking to see if his political colleagues will oust him.

Dababneh said he strongly denies the allegation.

"I affirmatively deny that this event ever happened - at any time. 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," Dababneh said.
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