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Accuser in Tony Cárdenas assault case alleges he helped her family get free rent

Accuser in Tony Cárdenas assault case alleges he helped her family get free rent
Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-Los Angeles) leaves the House Democrats' caucus meeting in the Capitol in June. (Bill Clark / CQ Roll Call)

The woman who has accused U.S. Rep. Tony Cárdenas of sexually assaulting her 11 years ago is seeking to add new details to her lawsuit, including a claim that he helped her family live rent-free in a four-bedroom home in the San Fernando Valley.

The accuser, identified in her lawsuit as Jane Doe, says Cárdenas (D-Los Angeles) provided help to her and her family — including free golf coaching, tournament fees and stays at “lavish resorts” where tournaments were held, according to a motion filed earlier this week.

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The filing states that Cárdenas met Jane Doe at a golf tournament in 2005 and offered her family access to a house soon afterward. She also alleged that Mark Handel, a real estate developer in the San Fernando Valley who has made political donations to Cárdenas, paid for the family to live there.

“Ms. Doe believes her father accepted Mr. Cárdenas’s generous offer because he wanted a better life for his family,” the filing states.

The Jane Doe lawsuit, originally filed in April, alleges that Cárdenas gave the woman, then 16 years old, a cup of water with a “peculiar taste” in 2007, while they were golfing at a Los Angeles country club, and that she later collapsed. Cárdenas assaulted her in a car on the way to a hospital, Jane Doe said in the lawsuit.

The former star teenage athlete also made new allegations in this week’s filing that Cárdenas engaged in “unwanted touching” while driving her to tournaments from 2005 to 2007, touching her multiple times on the leg and shoulders.

Jane Doe also said she believed that a lobbyist was with Cárdenas in 2007 when she collapsed on the golf course. The lobbyist was not named.

Cárdenas’ lawyer, Patricia Glaser, has previously called the assault allegations "100%, categorically untrue,” describing Cárdenas' accuser as the daughter of a "disgruntled former employee" who "may be the victim of manipulation." On Friday, Glaser said the new allegations were also untrue.

“Unequivocally, Tony Cárdenas could not be clearer,” Glaser said. “Never, ever was there any inappropriate touching.”

Glaser said Cárdenas, then a Los Angeles city councilman, donated his time and foundation money while in office to help a number of young people. She said it was “pathetic” that Cárdenas’ generosity was being used against him in the lawsuit.

Jane Doe’s attorney, Lisa Bloom, said Friday she had no further comment. The two sides will appear in court Sept. 4.

Cárdenas is one of the highest-ranking Latino members of Congress and leads the Congressional Hispanic Caucus' Bold PAC, which works to elect Latinos nationwide. He also holds a low-level position in the House leadership. So far, he has faced little blowback on Capitol Hill, where half a dozen or so colleagues have had to resign amid accusations of sexual harassment. Many of his fellow Democrats have said they are reserving judgment until the suit moves through the courts.

Asked about the lawsuit’s claims, Handel, the real estate developer, said he did put a family in a home in Pacoima more than a decade ago. In an interview, he said he did so because he needed someone to watch over it for several months before it was demolished.

The developer said he needed someone in the house to ensure the property did not fall prey to squatters or illegal dumping. Handel said he does not charge rent in those situations so that the temporary occupants do not refuse to move out later on.

“None of the people who have lived in my abandoned houses paid anything, because you don’t want a tenant situation,” he said.

In her latest legal filing, Jane Doe said her family lived in a small trailer before moving into the four-bedroom house. She also said that Cárdenas arranged a job for her father at his nonprofit foundation.

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She said in the filing she did not complain to Cárdenas about unwanted touching because he was her father’s close friend, a powerful man in the community, and that she appreciated he was taking her to play golf on courses her family could not afford.

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