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Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas accused of groping woman at a 1999 dinner party

Allegations that GOP nominee Donald Trump groped numerous women have prompted an Alaska attorney to go public with a claim that she was briefly grabbed at a 1999 dinner party by Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

Moira Smith, then age 24 and a Truman Foundation scholar in Washington, said she was invited to a small dinner party with more than a dozen others, including Justice Thomas.

“I was so incredibly excited to meet him, rough confirmation hearings notwithstanding,” she wrote on her Facebook page earlier this month. “He was charming in many ways, giant, booming laugh, charismatic and approachable. But to my complete shock, he groped me while I was setting the table, suggesting I should sit ‘right next to him’.”

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In an interview with the National Law Journal, Smith said she was briefly alone with Thomas.

“I was setting the place to his right when he reached out, sort of cupped his hand around my butt and pulled me close to him,” Smith said. “He said, ‘where are you sitting?’ and gave me a squeeze.”

Smith said she replied that the host had assigned her a seat at another table. “He one more time squeezed my butt, and he said, ‘Are you sure?’ I said yes, and that was the end of it.”

Thomas, who is marking the 25th anniversary of his joining the high court, issued a statement in response saying, “This claim is preposterous and it never happened.”

Thomas’ 1991 confirmation was nearly derailed by allegations from attorney Anita Hill that he sexually harassed her when they worked together at the Department of Education and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Louis Blair, who was then head of the Truman Foundation and hosting the dinner at his home in northern Virginia, told the journal he had not seen or heard of Smith’s allegation. He said he was busy in the kitchen preparing the dinner and that he was “skeptical that the justice and Moira would have been alone.”

After Smith posted her account on Facebook, the National Law Journal found three of her friends who recalled her speaking of the incident in 1999.

Amy Hertel Buckley, who said she worked with Smith preparing the tables, said in an email that she did not witness the incident, but recalled Smith describing it to her.

“When I saw her recent Facebook post, it was instantly familiar to me, and I believe she told me shortly after it happened, but it was a long time ago, so I don’t recall the specific timeline of when she told me,” Buckley said in an email to the Los Angeles Times.

Smith graduated from the UC Berkeley Law School in 2007 and returned to her home state of Alaska. She is a vice president and general counsel for Enstar Natural Gas Co. Her husband, Jake Metcalfe, was formerly the chairman of the Alaska Democratic Party.

Smith said she decided to post her account after listening to the audio recording of Trump boasting of aggressively groping women and kissing them without their consent. He has dismissed the recording as “locker-room talk” and denied the women’s allegations.

“We now know that many men in power take advantage of vulnerable women,” Smith said in the National Law Journal interview. “That willingness by men in power to take advantage of vulnerable women relies on an unspoken pact that the women will not speak up about it.”

david.savage@latimes.com

On Twitter: DavidGSavage

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