By Jamie Gangel, Tierney Sneed and Elizabeth Stuart | CNN
The Republican campaign staffer who has accused Matt Schlapp, a high-profile conservative activist, of sexual assault is now suing Schlapp and his wife, Mercedes, for more than $9 million.
The sexual battery civil lawsuit, filed Tuesday in the Virginia Circuit Court in Alexandria, also accuses both Schlapps of defamation and of conspiracy to impugn the accuser.
The complaint recounts accusations made by a Republican strategist, a male in his late 30s, who alleged that Matt Schlapp fondled him without his consent as he drove Schlapp back to his hotel in Georgia last October. The staffer was working for the Georgia GOP and Herschel Walker’s Senate campaign and had been assigned to drive Schlapp to campaign events in the Atlanta area.
The plaintiff, who is listed as John Doe in the lawsuit, alleges that in the wake of his coming forward there were “dishonest efforts” by the Schlapps and “others associated with and acting in concert with them, to discredit Mr. Doe.”
The lawsuit says as a result of the Schlapps’ alleged conspiracy, “Mr. Doe suffered damages, including and without limitation embarrassment, humiliation, stress, and reputational harm.”
An attorney for the Schlapps denied the allegations in a Tuesday statement, saying the complaint was “false.” The attorney, Charles Spies, said that the “Schlapp family is suffering unbearable pain and stress due to the false allegation from an anonymous individual.”
“No family should ever go through this and the Schlapps and their legal team are assessing counter-lawsuit options,” Spies said in the statement.
The lawsuit says that the accuser is withholding his name to “preserve the privacy of a victim of a sexual battery” and because the Schlapps are “well known, and in some quarters revered, amongst a portion of the population that has demonstrated a proclivity for threatening violence against those with whom they disagree.”
The lawsuit was first reported by The New York Times.
The Schlapps are both highly visible in Republican spheres and boosters of former President Donald Trump. Matt Schlapp, an alum of George W. Bush’s White House, runs the American Conservative Union, which stages the Conservative Political Action Conference, known as CPAC. Mercedes Schlapp was a communications director in the Trump White House.
The staffer says he agreed to meet Matt Schlapp for drinks in October because he was “eager to make a connection” due to Schlapp’s prominence within the Republican Party. The men met up for drinks at two Atlanta bars, and while at the second bar, the lawsuit says Schlapp “sat unusually close to Mr. Doe, such that his leg repeatedly contacted and was in almost constant contact with Mr. Doe’s leg,” making him uncomfortable, according to the lawsuit.
As the staffer drove Schlapp to his hotel, he alleges Schlapp “began aggressively fondling Mr. Doe’s genital area in a sustained fashion,” the lawsuit says, causing the staffer to freeze with “fear and panic from what was happening.”
Screenshots of text messages — previously reported by CNN — between the accuser and Schlapp the morning after the alleged incident are included in the complaint, including a text in which the accuser told Schlapp he “was uncomfortable with what happened” the previous night.
Schlapp repeatedly tried calling the staffer, according to the lawsuit, and eventually texted “if you could see it in your heart to call me at the end of the day. I would appreciate it. If not I wish you luck on the campaign and hope you keep up the good work.”
The complaint reveals that in the wake of the sexual assault accusations first becoming public earlier this month, Mercedes Schlapp allegedly sent a message to a neighborhood group “chat or text” claiming the accuser was a “troubled individual” who had been fired from multiple jobs, including for “lying and lying on his resume.”
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“With God’s help, we have stayed strong and the girls are amazingly strong,” Mercedes Schlapp said in her message, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit also states the plaintiff has never been fired from a job for lying or lying on his resume and alleges that Mercedes Schlapp’s statement is defamatory, and along with comments from their attorney has engaged in “a campaign to impugn Mr. Doe’s character.”
Tim Hyland, an attorney for the accuser, said in a statement that, “Because Mr. Schlapp has refused to own up to his misbehavior, this suit aims to make Mr. Schlapp, and those who lie for him, accountable for their actions.”
The staffer tells CNN he is keeping his legal options, including the possibility of seeking criminal charges, open.