The trial of a former ABC vice president accused of sexually harassing a female employe recessed yesterday as both sides indicated that a settlement in the case was expected today.
After nearly six hours of negotiations between attorneys for Cecily Coleman and lawyers for ABC, U.S. District Judge Barrington D. Parker sent the six-member jury home at 3 p.m. citing "unresolved matters and problems the court was considering with counsel." Parker ordered the jury of three men and three women to return today at 1 p.m.
Opening arguments were scheduled yesterday in the $15 million suit brought by Coleman, 31, of Arlington, against ABC and James D. Abernathy, 43, a Manhattan media consultant who was formerly vice-president for corporate affairs.
Coleman has said in court papers that she was fired from her $60,000 a year job in ABC's Washington Bureau after she complained that Abernathy had threatened her by making repeated, unwanted sexual advances and implying that her career depended on complying with his demands. She also alleges that ABC's top management tacitly encouraged sexual harassment, which is a violation of D.C. and federal law.
ABC and Abernathy have denied all charges. In court papers they maintain that she falsified her educational and employment history on her resume, was frustrated at not obtaining a permanent job and "went to great lengths to make herself highly visible" within ABC.
Both sides, eager to avoid the exposure of a public trial that is being closely watched by women's groups and the network, have previously discussed an out-of-court settlement but have been unable to agree on an amount.