Sexual assault victim says her own lawyer threatened to help Councilman Harrison sue her if she ever told anyone of the incident or violated confidentiality agreement
The young woman who says she a victim of sexual assault by lawyer William W. (Billy) Harrison Jr., a Virginia Beach City Councilman, told VNS her hired lawyer, threatened to help Harrison sue her if she ever told anyone about the incident.
The victim, who said she was required to sign a confidentiality agreement, said her lawyer Linda Laibstain "told me at settlement, if I ever told anyone about this, Billy would sue me and she would help him." [emphasis added]
In fact, in the first paragraph of page 2 of the letter to William Rachels, Harrison's lawyer, Laibstain states that one of the "most important aspects of this settlement is the confidentiality provision." "I'll be honest with you, I was mad, but I was also scared," the victim said. She said she will no longer be intimidated by the legal system or any of its players.
She went to about a dozen lawyers trying to get someone who would represent her interests against Harrison before she found Laibstain of Hofheimer, Nusbaum, P.C.. None of the others would take the case, citing that Harrison was a powerful young lawyer in a powerfully well-connected law firm.
The victim said every attorney she told her story to, including Laibstain, who agreed only to limited representation, discouraged her from going to the police, she assumes to keep from embarrassing Harrison and his law firm.
"She (Linda) just told me, 'well, you're just wasting your time period, because of who his father is and who he is. There's not going to be anyone to take your case'. She said there is no sense in even trying to go to the police. They told me at work, if I went to the police, I would be the one who'd be in trouble because no one would believe me...because of who his father was and who he was." (Harrison's father was president of one of the largest banks in the state at the time).
She added, "To me, I got ripped. The shaft all the way around (from the legal system in addition to her encounter with Harrison)."
The victim said she always thought of the incident more as a crime than a civil matter, but finally reached the point of accepting any legal help.
The victim said that when "Linda saw the ad I had written on the front of a folder I had, she told me, 'Let me call Billy and see what I can work out.'" The ad read: "I need a lawyer - someone not afraid to fight William Harrison Jr. of Willcox & Savage, PC for sexual assault and harassment, also not afraid to fight a large hotel chain."
"I think," the victim said, "that Linda just wanted to stop me from going anywhere else or running that ad."
She had to leave the state shortly after the incident and is now working as a aide at a minimal wage with retarded and handicapped children for a school system. After the incident, Harrison went on to a local political future and has become a major powerbroker in city politics after serving two (2) terms. He is not seeking reelection because his firm instituted a policy barring its lawyers from serving elective offices.
In the letter Laibstain wrote Rachels proposing settlement terms she said, "Since obtaining unemployment compensation is important to (name withheld) until she obtains suitable employment, you agreed to assist the hotel's management to ensure that the proper papers are filed. I suggest that it read 'she was laid off due to an insufficient amount of work,' which is what she has been told by management." [emphasis added].
The victim said in an interview this week, "I was laid off because I wouldn't have sex with the owner and slugged him. It had nothing to do with the volume of work." [emphasis added]
She said that after the story became public last week she got her file out and re-read it. "I guess I signed that letter (from Laibstain to Rachels), but if I'd known what the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) is ... I would have went [sic] to them. Like I told her (Laibstain), I really didn't want the money, I just wanted him (Harrison) to pay for the crime that he done [sic]. And no one mentioned the EEOC or whatever it is that I could have went to [sic]."
Laibstain would not discuss the case with VNS. Attempts to reach her by email to determine if she had experience in handing sexual harassment/assault cases were unsuccessful. On her firm's web page, however, her practice areas only list brain injury and medical malpractice; commercial litigation; litigation; personal injury; and trust and estates litigation.
The victim said that despite her emotional trauma and scars, Laibstain did not recommend counseling or seek funds for such counseling. "I should have definitely had counseling. There have been many times when we (school system employees) have to go to these sexual harassment classes, it has been a big problem for me. There's been so many times, I've wanted to come down there and slap the sh-t out of him, beat the sh-t out of him or shoot him."
The victim, unsophisticated in the ways of the law, said she still feels that she was abused by the system through the entire process.
"It was in those classes that I learned what had really happened to me and what my rights were. At one point, after getting out of one of the classes, I just wanted to get in the car and come down there (to Virginia Beach) and pop him (Harrison). I still get those feelings occasionally," the victim said last week.
Below are copies of letters, the only documents VNS could obtain, both executed before the young woman signed the confidentiality agreement. The first to Laibstain, the victim said, was written by Laibstain and presented for her signature by Laibstain hiring herself as the woman's lawyer. The second was written by Laibstain to Rachels who was representing Harrison's interests. It details the amount and terms of payment. It also references the confidentiality agreement the woman was to sign. Harrison refused to discuss the case with VNS.
Victim says Laibstain wrote this letter to herself authorizing her employment as counsel for the woman; limiting Laibstain's representation. The victim and a witness were then asked to sign it.
This is a letter Laibstain wrote to Rachels who represented Harrison and the law firm's interest. Victim's name was removed from the above pages to protect her identity.
Virginia News Source was unable to view or obtain a copy of the confidentiality agreement referenced above.