Three more women accuse California assemblyman of sexual misconduct

State Assemblyman Matt Dababneh (D-Woodland Hills)
(Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

A Los Angeles woman has filed a police report alleging Democratic Assemblyman Matt Dababneh had sex with her without consent four years ago, adding new allegations of sexual misconduct to those that led the politician to announce his resignation last week. He says her claims are false.

Nancy Miret, 26, told The Times that when she was 22 and a recent college graduate, she spent time with Dababneh over two months in late 2013, primarily at his Encino apartment.

At the time, Dababneh was running for Assembly to represent the western San Fernando Valley. They had consensual sex on one occasion, but after that, Miret said she had multiple nonconsensual sexual encounters with Dababneh that left her traumatized. Miret, who now works in commercial real estate, is one of three women interviewed by The Times who have made new allegations concerning Dababneh’s behavior.

“These allegations are false and I’m confident that when all the facts are in, it will clearly show that these claims are not true,” Dababneh told The Times.

The assemblyman announced his resignation Friday, effective Jan. 1, after two women publicly accused him of harassment. Pamela Lopez, a Sacramento lobbyist, said Dababneh masturbated in front of her and asked her to touch his genitals at a 2016 party. Another woman, Jessica Yas Barker, alleged that Dababneh routinely made degrading comments about women and discussed his sexual exploits in the office. Dababneh has strongly denied the accusations.

The Assembly Rules Committee has hired an outside investigator to look into the allegations against the Woodland Hills lawmaker, who is not married.

The other two women who spoke to The Times also described incidents that they claim occurred before Dababneh was elected to the Assembly in 2013 — one when he supervised local field operations to help John F. Kerry’s presidential campaign in 2004, and another when he was chief of staff for U.S. Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Porter Ranch), a position he held from 2009 to 2013.

Jenn Kang said Dababneh was her supervisor in 2004 when, as an 18-year-old just out of high school, she worked on the Kerry campaign in a Pasadena field office. She alleged that Dababneh exposed his penis to her and asked her to touch or perform oral sex on him one day when they were out trying to raise money for the candidate. Kang offered to speak to the Assembly Rules Committee last week as part of its investigation into Dababneh’s conduct.

Carrie McFadden worked in Sherman’s campaign office from 2010 to 2012. She said Dababneh, as the congressman’s chief of staff in the district office, would regularly talk about his sex life during his frequent visits. She said he once offered her a raise if she could convince a UCLA student to have sex with him.

Neither woman formally reported the incidents, saying they weren’t sure how to do so at the time.

“I did not know who to call. I was only reporting to Matt…. There’s no one else that I would have talked to,” said Kang, who is now 31 and working in healthcare. “A big part of me thinks that had I been able to have that route, he wouldn’t have been able to do this to other women.”

Dababneh, then a recent graduate of UCLA, appeared to take special interest in Kang during her summer job assisting the 2004 campaign, she said, asking her to go on weekend vacations and saying he had feelings for her.

She said Dababneh once asked her if she was a virgin. “I wanted to jump out of my skin,” she said.

Her older sister, Irene Kang, recalled that Kang said her male supervisor had taken interest in her and was asking her to hang out outside of work.

One afternoon in summer 2004, Kang and Dababneh were out knocking on doors to raise money. As they were sitting in his parked car, Dababneh pulled out his erect penis and asked her what she thought of it, she said. He asked her if she would touch him or perform oral sex on him, she said. When she declined, she said, he asked if she would at least touch his arm, and then put his penis back in his pants.

They finished their shift, but Kang didn’t return to the office to work again after that day. Her friend Sarah Kwon said Kang told her at the time that Dababneh had exposed himself in the car.

Kang said she had been “too young to process” what had happened to her. She said she’s speaking up now because she feels she “would be complicit by not saying anything.”

McFadden said she frequently interacted with Dababneh when she worked in Sherman’s campaign office, a job she began as a 23-year-old UCLA student in 2010. Dababneh was then chief of staff in the representative’s district office in Sherman Oaks.

McFadden said Dababneh would hang out in the campaign office and talk about “which interns he thought were hot, or which women he had hooked up with in politics.”

In February 2012, McFadden was honored as the UCLA Bruins Democratic Club alumnus of the year. She said Dababneh attended the event and told her if she could convince the then-president of the club to have sex with him, he would get McFadden a raise.

McFadden said the comment made her uneasy.

“I think at the time I was in shock, and I don’t think I even directly responded,” she said.

Because McFadden worked for the campaign and not in the district office, Dababneh was not her boss and had no formal authority to adjust her pay.

McFadden did not report the incident to her boss, but she confided in two friends. Both confirmed to The Times that McFadden told them about Dababneh’s behavior, including the comment about the raise.

Later, McFadden sent Dababneh an email, congratulating him on an endorsement in his campaign. She said she remained in occasional contact with him because she was “being mindful of not burning any bridges.”

McFadden, now 31 and working at an election law firm in San Francisco, said she struggled with whether to tell her story publicly.

“There are still a lot of people from that campaign I consider friends,” she said.

Miret was 22 years old and a recent UCLA graduate when she and Dababneh first spent time together alone in October 2013. Dababneh, 10 years her senior, was running for office for the first time, locked in a tight Assembly race that he would win narrowly the next month.

They met months earlier when her friend, Susana Mejia, brought her to a party. Mejia, who was then an intern in Sherman’s office, said she introduced them there.

The first time they spent time together, Miret said, she and Dababneh had sex at his apartment. She said that first encounter was consensual. When she met him subsequently, she told him in advance that she didn’t want to have sex.

They did not have sex every time they saw each other. But on multiple occasions Dababneh would remove her clothes as she tried to squirm away, Miret said. She claimed she would tell him “no” or “stop” before he had sex with her. Miret said he would bite her neck and other parts of her body, leaving visible marks, and sometimes apologized for his actions.

“If you’re saying ‘No, no, no, no,’ and you stop and then you’re quiet, you still never gave consent. That’s something that I didn’t understand” at first, Miret said. “I didn’t understand that me stopping fighting was not consent.”

Miret said she grapples with why she returned to see him.

“He made it clear he was a powerful person with connections, someone who was important to know, and I naively believed nearly all of it,” she said.

One Saturday night, she said she insisted they meet at a restaurant, hoping to avoid having sex with Dababneh by being in a public place. She said Dababneh convinced her to go to Sherman’s district office in Sherman Oaks, which was empty at the time, where they had nonconsensual sex. She said she felt “intensely violated” after the encounter, and afterward took photos of bruising and bite marks on her neck.

She showed The Times photographs she said were of those injuries; metadata from the photos confirmed they were taken on the night Miret alleged the encounter occurred. Miret’s friend, Kevin Schallert, confirmed she canceled plans to attend a barbecue the next day, which she blamed on visible marks on her body that embarrassed her.

She said she stopped returning Dababneh’s calls a short time later, after his election to the Assembly, and “found the strength to abruptly end all communication with him.” She told her friend, Mejia, at the time that the sex was not consensual. In an interview, Mejia confirmed that. In December 2013, Miret also told Schallert, which he confirmed to The Times.

Miret didn’t file a police report at the time, she said, because “I was still at a point where I could hardly talk about it.”

In June 2014, Miret sought advice from Schallert, who put her in touch with Kaya Axelsson, a student activist on campus rape at USC.

“She wanted to know what her options were as far as coming forward and as far as receiving some form of institutional support,” Axelsson told The Times.

Axelsson suggested she call a rape crisis center affiliated with a local hospital. The Times reviewed a summary of Miret’s June 16, 2014, call — placed seven months after Miret stopped seeing Dababneh — which was released by the center with her authorization. Miret asked questions about reporting a sexual assault and said she had been assaulted by “Matthew Dababneh,” according to the report.

Several weeks ago, Miret was connected to Lopez and Barker through mutual friends. She spoke to The Times before the women made their allegations public, then decided last week to go to the police.

Dababneh’s attorney, James Blatt, said they are cooperating with the investigation.

“I remember what it was like to not have a voice,” Miret said. “It’s not fair to not speak out when you have the chance.”;

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