Democratic leader: Leach should quit over ‘troubling’ claims
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — The top Democrat in the Pennsylvania Senate said Thursday that an investigation of sexual misconduct claims against Sen. Daylin Leach found a “lengthy pattern of troubling behavior” and that he should resign.
But Leach, a fellow Democrat, said he felt vindicated after reading a summary of the findings.
The investigation examined an allegation that Leach sexually assault a woman in 1991 while he represented her mother in a criminal matter, as well as claims that he used sexual language, engaged in inappropriate touching and told off-color jokes.
The investigation by Harrisburg lawyer Michael McAuliffe Miller found no evidence of actionable discrimination or harassment. It said the rape claim could likely only be resolved if the parties testified under oath.
Leach denies the assault but apologized for sometimes telling inappropriate jokes.
Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa, D-Allegheny, said in a news release Thursday that the report in no way absolves Leach and that Democratic senators want more information to be added to the final version of the report. Costa spent hours behind closed doors Wednesday, going over the findings with other Democratic senators during a meeting that excluded Leach.
“Senator Leach’s course of conduct created an unprofessional and sexualized environment,” Costa said. “That should not be tolerated in any workplace; we will not tolerate it here. For this reason, I believe Senator Leach should resign from the Senate.”
Leach said Costa told him directly the report exonerated him and threatened severe consequences if Leach released the summary, which Leach posted online. He said Costa told him there were caucus members who were unhappy with the report and wanted to find additional witnesses.
“The fact is that Senator Costa wanted me to participate in a cover-up. He threatened me to keep silent about a taxpayer funded report and tell the press a lie,” said Leach, who represents the Philadelphia suburb of Montgomery County.
The summary said there are “certain factual inconsistencies” in Cara Taylor’s recollection of what happened in 1991, when she says she was the victim of a “sexual assault of a minor by forcible compulsion” at Leach’s hands. But the report added she “steadfastly believed her account of what transpired — her testimony on this point was detailed and passionate.” Leach adamantly denies any inappropriate conduct with Taylor, Miller said.
Taylor said she was 17 years old when Leach allegedly lured her into his home in Allentown, took off his clothes and pressured her for oral sex.
The Associated Press does not identify people who say they are the victims of sexual assault unless they come forward publicly, as Taylor has.
“Ultimately, credibility disputes occasioned by the passage of time, among other things, may only be resolved through a contested hearing held under oath,” Miller wrote in the report summary. He did not return a message seeking comment.
Taylor triggered the Miller investigation by distributing a five-page description of her claims against Leach to Senate offices in January.
Leach said he has been “in a vortex of constant, unrelenting publicity that sought to portray me as something I am not.”
“Of course, vindication does not mean that I am without flaws, the report does say that I have on occasion used poor judgment in my choice of humor,” Leach said. “I apologize to anyone who may have been offended, and I will work hard to do better.”
Taylor’s attorney said she was “astonished” that the report only recommended sexual harassment training for Leach.
“In the post #MeToo age, we know any employer or administration that tolerates sexual harassment and assault, tolerates discrimination and silencing of women,” Carrie Goldberg wrote in an emailed statement.
She said she hopes the Democratic Caucus comes up with its own punishment and joined Costa’s call for Leach’s resignation.
Leach sued Taylor and two others in January, claiming they “combined to publish, republish and widely disseminate a salacious and despicable falsehood” about him.
That litigation is pending. The two other women did not return messages seeking comment.
Lehigh County District Attorney James Martin said in January that authorities got a statement from Taylor in two meetings last year. Martin declined to say whether Taylor’s claim was credible because the statute of limitations would have expired in 1997.
Among the findings in Miller’s summary:
—Leach and multiple employees referred to an intern or employee as “thong girl” because her underwear was once visible. Miller said it was not actionable sexual harassment, but Leach should not condone such behavior.
—Leach did not touch a former staffer and caucus employee on the rear or tickle her torso at her desk, Miller said. Leach said the touched the woman’s shoulders from excitement that she had been hired to work for Senate Democrats.
—Leach admitted an employee showed him a 10-second pornographic video clip in the office. Investigators found it to be “poor judgment” and something that could make up part of a claim of a hostile work environment.
—Leach made immature and unprofessional jokes and comments to campaign staff.