Ex-Holden Aide Testifies at Sex Harassment Trial : Courts: Outside the courtroom, former press deputy tells about alleged mistreatment of women in councilman’s office.
A former press deputy to Los Angeles City Councilman Nate Holden testified Wednesday that she never had the telephone number to Holden’s Marina del Rey apartment, in stark contrast to earlier testimony that a one-time receptionist suing Holden for sexual harassment called and visited the apartment many times.
Betty Pleasant-Miller, who spent two years working as Holden’s press deputy, said the apartment phone number was not included on telephone lists distributed to the staff. But receptionist Marlee M. Beyda, the plaintiff, and Holden himself have previously stated that Beyda had that number and that the two frequently talked on the phone late at night.
Pleasant-Miller denied that she was helping Beyda with her lawsuit, but acknowledged on the stand that she dislikes her former boss.
“I hate the way he treated women in the office,” she said several times. Asked by Holden’s lawyer, Michael O’Conner, “Is it true that you hate Councilman Holden and have told everyone that you hate him?” Pleasant-Miller responded: “Well, I did not tell everyone. “
But Pleasant-Miller’s ire only increased when she was released as a witness after eight minutes, having been asked mostly benign questions having little to do with sex or harassment.
“That’s it?” she asked, looking shocked.
Outside the courtroom, Pleasant-Miller said she twice saw secretaries perched on Holden’s lap in the office, and that the 66-year-old lawmaker and his staff had contests comparing the buttocks of their female colleagues.
“I’m really frustrated,” she said. “There’s a lot to be said, and a lot I wanted to say.”
But Superior Court Judge Raymond D. Mireles, who is hearing the case without a jury, has prohibited the plaintiff from offering testimony from other women who experienced or witnessed harassment in the office. He has ruled that only events that happened to Beyda, or in her presence, are admissible in the trial, ending its fourth week today.
Beyda, 31, is one of two women suing Holden for sexual harassment, and a third former aide filed a claim against him in 1992. Beyda’s attorneys claim they have a list of 20 women willing to testify to Holden’s improper comments and conduct.
Earlier Wednesday, Beyda concluded more than a week of testimony, reiterating her previous assertions that she suffered depression and recurring nightmares because of Holden’s sexual advances.
On cross-examination, Assistant City Atty. Wilma Pinder questioned why Beyda returned to the apartment several times after Holden allegedly masturbated by rubbing himself against her body, and why Beyda kept $150 Holden allegedly gave her to buy a dress moments before trying to force her into performing oral sex.
“Did you take the assortment of $20 bills and throw it in his face?” Pinder asked.
“No, I did not,” Beyda replied.
“Did you say, ‘Obviously there are strings attached, you just put your penis near my mouth?’ ” Pinder pressed on.
“No,” came the quiet answer.
“You weren’t being paid for oral sex, were you?” Pinder continued.
“I certainly hope not,” Beyda said.
Pinder also introduced into evidence a snapshot of a 1991 Christmas party in which Beyda is grinning as she helps Holden on with his Santa Claus suit. Beyda testified Wednesday that she was just trying to be kind and help her boss when no one else was around, but Holden hailed it as proof that she was comfortable being around him, not fearful, as she has claimed.
“She put on my boots!” he exclaimed during a break, after passing out copies of the photo. “She put the pillow in my pants!”