A former staffer, who worked for U.S. Rep John Conyers for eight years, alleges the Democrat “icon” repeatedly made unwanted sexual advances and touched her inappropriately.
Deanna Maher served as Conyers’ former deputy chief of staff from 1997 to 2005. She is the second woman to publicly accuse Conyers of sexual misconduct. On Sunday, Conyers announced that he is stepping down as the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, but the 88-year-old refused to resign from the seat he has held since 1965. Conyers is currently the longest serving active-Representative in congress. He represents the city of Detroit.
Through his attorney Conyers denied all wrongdoing and questioned why Maher would stay on for so long if the allegations were true.
“I needed to earn a living, and I was 57. How many people are going to hire you at that age?” she told the Detroit News.
According to Maher, at a Congressional Black Caucus event in 1997, she found herself without a hotel room. Conyers offered her his suite in exchange for sex. He turned her down. Maher further claims that between 197 and 1998, Conyers touched her inappropriately while they were in a car. He also reached under her dress to touch her legs.
“He was trying to feel me up with his right hand. I kept pushing his hand away. Then he put his hand on my neck and started trying to tickle me. We were on I-75, and he was driving erratically. I was saved by the bell because we got pulled over by the police for the way he was driving,” she said.
Of the leg-touching incident, Maher said Conyers “put his hand up my dress and whispered in my ear, ‘I didn’t know you had such great legs.’ ”
At the time, Maher told Detroit Free Press reporter Joel Thurtell about the ongoing abuse. “She told me about the sexual harassment claims, but at the time she didn’t feel confident she wouldn’t be hung out to dry and retaliated against,” Thurtell told the Detroit News.
Maher herself explained, “I didn’t report the harassment because it was clear nobody wanted to take it seriously,” she said, adding, “John Conyers is a powerful man in Washington, and nobody wanted to cross him.”
According to the Detroit News, Maher spoke to them back in 2013 but again refused to go on the record.
Maher further claims that in 2001 she was assaulted by a man who worked for Conyers while the congressman was in the other room. He “grabbed her and forcibly kissed her and ended up sexually harassing her multiple times,” she says.
Moreover, Maher said she reported this incident to the House Ethics Committee and U.S. Attorney’s Office in 2001.
The Ethics Committee had no comment for the Detroit Press.
Last week Conyers admitted to reaching a $27,000 settlement with a former staffer in 2015 but denied the allegations of sexual harassment.