Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.) identified himself as the subject of a lawsuit in Los Angeles County claiming a local politician sexually abused a 16-year-old girl in 2007, and he vehemently denied the allegations through his attorney.
“My client is sickened and distraught by these horrific allegations, which are 100%, categorically untrue,” Patricia Glaser said Thursday in a statement on Cárdenas’s behalf.
“We respect victims who have found the strength to come forward and call out misconduct when it has actually occurred, but the type of baseless and reckless allegations that are contained in the complaint against my client can ruin the lives and careers of innocent people,” Glaser said.
Cárdenas has been calling colleagues in recent days about the lawsuit and telling them he is innocent, according to a House Democratic aide. The three-term congressman is the chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’s political action committee.
Two other House Democratic aides confirmed that Cárdenas has been contacting colleagues about the lawsuit. Filed April 27, it did not identify him because under California law, the names of defendants in child sex abuse cases cannot be disclosed without court approval.
The court filing, which was first reported by the Los Angeles Times, alleges that “John Doe” first met the plaintiff in 2005 at a golf tournament when she was 14 and subsequently became a close friend of her family’s. Two years later, the document claims, he fondled her breasts and genitals while driving her to the emergency room after the two played golf at Hillcrest Country Club in Los Angeles.
The girl had “suddenly collapsed to the ground” during the golf game after John Doe gave her a cup of ice water that “tasted distinctly different from both tap and filtered water,” the lawsuit states.
The suit claims the actions constituted childhood sexual abuse under California law because she was under 18 at the time. The plaintiff asked for unspecified damages and a jury trial.
Glaser said that Cárdenas has an “exemplary record in more than 20 years of public service” and that the plaintiff is the “daughter of a disgruntled former employee and may be the victim of manipulation.”
“The congressman expects complete exoneration, as he is 100% innocent,” she said.
The Post generally does not name victims of sexual assault.
Lisa Bloom, the attorney for the plaintiff, responded to a request for comment with an emailed statement:
“I represent the young woman who, carefully following California law, filed this action against the defendant named only as John Doe. Once the court grants us leave to name the defendant, we will do so.”
At least eight members of Congress have resigned or announced plans to retire since the fall over allegations of sexual misconduct or workplace harassment.
Cárdenas was elected in 2012 to represent California’s 29th District, a heavily Democratic area that includes portions of Los Angeles County’s San Fernando Valley. The district would not be a likely Republican target in the November midterm elections regardless of Cárdenas’s situation.
The congressman is the youngest of 11 children born to immigrant parents from Mexico. He started in elective office as a member of the California State Assembly in 1996 and later joined the Los Angeles City Council before running for Congress.
He was a member of the council at the time of the alleged abuse.
If Cárdenas were to resign, his seat would remain open for the rest of the year. California election law prevents special elections “after the close of the nomination period in the final year of the term of office,” and filing ended March 14.
Alice Crites and David Weigel contributed to this report.