Woman will ask Bar Association to investigate sexual assault case
|The woman who claims she was the
victim of a sexual assault by William W. (Billy) Harrison Jr. said
Friday she plans to file a formal complaint with the Virginia State Bar
The victim, whom VNS has agreed to not identify, said she will ask the Bar to investigate the actions of Harrison, a member of the prestigious law firm of Willcox & Savage P.C. and a member of the Virginia Beach City Council since 1994.
She also is going to ask for an investigation of her representation by Linda Laibstain of Hofheimer Nusbaum P.C.
She questions the legality of Laibstain recommending a false reason for the victim's dismissal as an employee of Harrison's EconLodge in order for her to qualify for unemployment compensation after being forced out for refusing to have sex with Harrison, she said.
Harrison, an acknowledged power broker in Virginia Beach, took prominent positions in the 2000 council race to elect his favored candidates and in this year's race is reportedly supporting Page Lea, Peter Schmidt, Richard Maddox, and Jim Wood, although some are trying to distance themselves from him.
He has been involved as a councilman in several high profile, highly controversial projects, including public/private partnerships for the proposed 4-star 31st Street hotel and the Town Center at Pembroke.
His expertise is acknowledged on his firm's web page which states:
He been required to abstain from numerous council votes to avoid conflict of interest.
Neither Laibstain nor a spokesman for Harrison's firm could be reached for comment Friday.
Laibstain suggested that Harrison's lawyer William Rachels list the reason for the woman's dismissal as 'she was laid off due to an insufficient amount of work.'
"I was 'laid' off because I wouldn't have sex with the boss," she told VNS.
"I was working 60-70 hours a week until after the night he tried to force me to have sex with him," she said. "The next day I only got to work 1 hour then I was told my hours would be cut back to 13 a week." But that didn't last long before she lost the job entirely.
The incident occurred the night of March 12, 1990. She was officially terminated on March 23rd, but let go on March 16.
Despite the advice she could collect unemployment per the reasons Laibstain suggested to Rachels, the woman never did.
"You know when I talk about it even today, I want to cry. I loved that job. Some of the guests even said they thought that because of how hard I worked, I must be a part owner, but I told them I was just an regular employee.
"After they let me go I was treated like a criminal and trash. I was told if I came back on the property (at 2968 Shore Drive) that I'd be arrested for trespassing.
"I was told if my kids' ball came onto the property and I tried to get it, I would be arrested," she said.
She said Harrison cornered her in the hotel's linen/laundry room, demanded sex, ripped the bathing suit top under her T-shirt, and left bruises on her neck.
To escape, she said she slugged him between the eyes with her fist and ran from the room.
"As we passed the master suite, he told me, 'You have won the battle, but I'll win the war. This is your last chance.' I told him, "'F--k you and left."
The story has not been made public until now because it was covered up by a confidentiality agreement barring the victim from discussing the case. After VNS learned of the story locally, the woman revealed it was part of an almost year long pattern of sexual harassment (See: previous stories: Part I and Part II)
The victim said the legal system failed her when she tried to get help in coping with what had happened to her.
About a dozen area lawyers refused to represent the victim because of who Harrison was and the firm he was in. All, including Laibstain whom she eventually hired for partial representation, discouraged her from reporting the incident to the police.
She said the event climaxed almost a year of sexual harassment by Harrison. The confidentiality agreement and Laibstain's settlement was specific to the event of March 12 only.
The victim said her full legal options were never explained to her and although she signed a letter Laibstain wrote referencing her rights with the "EEOC," "I didn't know what EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ) meant until I had to take sexual harassment courses for the state in my present job," she said. (See related story dealing with penalties and consequences of sexual harassment.)
That's when I first learned what my rights are under the law.
The victim now works as an 'aide' with retarded and handicapped children for a school system. She blames part of her divorce on the events that happened to her at the motel.