Oklahoma City woman accuses ex-lawmaker of sexual misconduct

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Oklahoma City woman accuses ex-lawmaker of sexual misconduct
© The Oklahoman/Gannett Lawmaker Resignation Assault Allegation – The Oklahoman/Gannett

An Oklahoma state lawmaker who resigned abruptly last week has been accused by an Oklahoma City lobbyist of touching her inappropriately during a New Year’s Eve party at her home.

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Former first-term Democratic state Rep. Jose Cruz, 31, resigned from his House seat last week, issuing a statement in which he apologized for “exercising poor judgment and acting inappropriately during a gathering.” He didn’t elaborate on the details of his actions.

Now, 33-year-old Sarah Rivin, the government relations director in Oklahoma for the American Heart Association has come forward with allegations that Cruz cornered her in her bathroom, made comments about her body and then ran his hand up her leg. Cruz did not respond to messages left Wednesday seeking comment on the woman’s allegations.

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“He came in, closed the door behind him, blocked the door, said inappropriate things and then touched me inappropriately,” Rivin said in an interview with The Associated Press. “I made it clear I was uncomfortable and he stepped aside.

“It was obviously surprising when somebody you consider a friend, really, attacks you in your own home.”

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Rivin said she was shocked about what had happened and began to cry when she recounted the incident to a friend. She then went with two of her friends to her bedroom, where she stayed for much of the night, while Cruz and his wife remained at the party until shortly after midnight.

“I mostly just felt panicked and wanted to hide versus confronting that situation,” she said.

After Cruz left the party, Rivin said he sent several text messages to her saying he was drunk, apologizing and asking her not to tell anyone what had happened. Rivin shared screenshots of the text messages with the AP.

Rivin filed a police report about the alleged assault on Sunday, and Oklahoma City Police Capt. Valerie Littlejohn, without identifying Rivin or Cruise, confirmed the matter remains under investigation. When the investigation is complete, it will be forwarded to Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater’s office to consider whether filing charges against Cruz, Littlejohn said.

Under Oklahoma law, sexual battery is the intentional touching of someone’s body in a “lewd and lascivious manner” without the person’s consent. It is a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

The Associated Press typically does not identify victims of sexual assault, but Rivin agreed to the use of her full name.

“As you can imagine, coming forward was really scary, especially with the legislative session coming up,” she said, her voice quivering with emotion. “I just want to do my job, and that’s what’s been hardest to grapple with.”

Rivin said she also shared her account with House Democratic Leader Emily Virgin, who confirmed in a statement to the AP on Wednesday that she and Caucus Chair Rep. Cyndi Munson told Cruz they believed he should resign.

“We heard directly from the victim, and we believed her,” said Virgin, D-Norman. “She has nothing to gain from coming forward and faces considerable personal and professional risk for simply speaking out about this behavior by someone in power. We respect her courage.”

Lisa Dadio, a former police lieutenant who investigated sex crimes for the New Haven Connecticut, Police Department, said these types of cases are often difficult for both investigators and prosecutors to find probable cause that a crime occurred.

“It comes down to victims … versus the person who committed the alleged incident,” said Dadio, who is now the director of the Center for Advanced Policing at New Haven University. “I hate to say ‘he said, she said,’ because that’s so cliché, but that’s really what it comes down to.”

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