By Jordy Yager - 02/14/12 10:16 PM EST
A federal judge has dismissed a sexual harassment lawsuit against Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.).
Hastings applauded the U.S. District Court's decision on Tuesday as he echoed comments he has made for nearly a year maintaining his innocence. The House Ethics Committee is also investigating Hastings over the charges.
“In a race with a lie, the truth always wins. Today, the truth prevailed in a court of law, and I am glad to see that these bogus allegations have finally been dismissed.”
Conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch filed the lawsuit on behalf of Winsome Packer, who served as a policy adviser to Hastings when he co-chaired the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe.
A second lawsuit filed under the Congressional Accountability Act was delayed until the case against Hastings had been decided, but it can now proceed.
Paul Orfanedes, the director of litigation at Judicial Watch, said the group was disappointed with Tuesday’s decision but optimistic that the second case would get under way within the next several weeks. If the judge had allowed for the personal claims against Hastings and Fred Turner — the commission’s former staff director and Hastings's ex-chief of staff — to proceed, then it could have taken another 18 months before the case really got under way, Orfanedes said.
“One way to look at this decision is that it opens the door for the case to proceed now without any further delay,” Orfanades said. “So, in that regard it’s positive. But we’re a bit disappointed we couldn’t hold Hastings and Turner personally responsible, but we can certainly hold them accountable through the Congressional Accountability Act claim.”
Last month the House Ethics Committee moved to not empanel an investigative subcommittee to formally probe the allegations against Hastings, instead opting to move forward with its own investigation using a broad-ranging committee rule.
Packer claims that from 2008-2010 Hastings made repeated sexual advances toward her and that she was “particularly vulnerable to such threats because she was a Republican working for the Democratically controlled commission,” according to civil lawsuit.
Packer has spoken on Jamaican television shows about the sexual harassment allegations while promoting her novel, A Personal Agenda. The book centers on the murder of a black ex-congressman who had troubles with corruption and extramarital affairs.
“A Personal Agenda seeks to provoke its readers by examining racial tensions, corruption and sexual harassment in Congress, as well as the impact of immigration to the U.S. and other nations,” a press release states.