Sexual assault trial faces Sen. Haugen’s husband
By JESSIE STENSLAND
Whidbey News Times Assistant editor
May 27, 2011 · Updated 9:29 AM
An Island County Superior Court judge dismissed all but one element of a Coupeville woman’s lawsuit against the husband of a powerful state senator.
But Judge Alan Hancock’s decision last Friday afternoon means Courtney Jones’ lawsuit against Basil Badley, Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen’s husband, can continue, unless it’s settled out of court before the Aug. 30 trial date.
Hancock ruled that Jones may argue a claim against Badley based on sexual assault and battery because “there are genuine issues of material fact.” He dismissed all the other claims, including employment discrimination, outrage, negligent infliction of emotional distress and common law gender discrimination.
Jones filed the lawsuit against Badley in 2009. She worked as the campaign manager for Sen. Haugen, a Camano Island Democrat, in 2008. She claimed Badley sexually assaulted her while she was working for the senator.
Tyna Ek, a Seattle attorney representing Badley, filed a motion for summary judgment asking the judge to dismiss the lawsuit entirely. Jones’ attorney, Rebecca Roe of Seattle, filed a lengthy document opposing summary judgment.
The two attorneys argued their points in court last Friday; Hancock made his oral pronouncements at the end of the hour-long hearing.
Hancock ruled that Jones could not make an employment discrimination claim for several reasons, including the fact that Badley was not her employer. He said there is no common law gender discrimination tort and he can’t create new law.
In addition, Hancock ruled that the claim of outrage and negligent infliction of emotional distress had to be dismissed because, as a higher court has ruled, they essentially duplicate the sexual battery claim. Any damages for emotional pain, he said, can be recovered under a sexual assault and battery tort.
Ek argued that the sexual assault claim should also be thrown out because there was no evidence that Badley intended to hurt Jones, which the attorney said was essential to bringing the claim.
“The evidence is he — stupidly — thought she was interested in him,” Ek said. “There was no intent to harm anyone.”
The best they could argue, she said, was that Badley was “thickheaded.”
Roe, however, disagreed with Ek’s interpretation of case law and claimed Ek was mischaracterizing the event as a harmless kissing attempt.
“There’s this assumption,” Roe said, referring to Ek’s argument, “that a sexual overture is welcome until proven otherwise, instead of the opposite.”
Hancock sided with Roe on the single, but crucial, issue.
While Sen. Haugen was barely mentioned in court Friday, she looms large in court documents. In her deposition, Haugen said she didn’t know about the accusations Jones made against her husband until the lawsuit was filed, which she wasn’t happy about.
“I am disappointed she ... did not come forward to talk to me. She worked for me, not him,” Haugen said.
In addition, Haugen was reluctant to admit that her husband did anything inappropriate. She said the only thing Badley did was to “try to kiss” Jones and that a lot of hugging and kissing occurred in the campaign.
“She appears unaware Badley has acknowledged being sexually aroused and romantically motivated in his conduct toward plaintiff on two occasions,” Roe wrote in her motion opposing summary judgment.
Two members of Haugen’s staff were deposed and said they were shocked by the accusations against Badley and surprised that Jones didn’t talk to the senator before filing a lawsuit. They said Haugen was close to Jones and treated her like a daughter.
Badley and Jones described very different versions of events in their respective depositions.
Jones claimed Badley first made a sexual overture following a Nov. 23, 2008, campaign appreciation dinner. She said he tried to kiss her, but she turned so that the kiss landed on her cheek.
Then on Dec. 2, 2008, Badley invited Jones to the house to pick up campaign-related items and have dinner; Haugen was out of town at the time. They both were drinking. Jones claimed Badley sexually assaulted her even after she resisted and told him to stop.
“He repeatedly and persistently kissed her, groped her buttocks and breasts, and put his hand down her shirt. One of her earrings broke in the struggle. When the plaintiff told him to stop and reminded him about his wife, he said it wasn’t about his wife; it was about him and her,” Roe characterized the events in court documents.
Jones said Badley finally stopped, sat down and told her to leave. The next day he sent her an email apologizing for his behavior.
In his deposition, on the other hand, Badley claimed that Jones first came onto him at the Nov. 23 campaign dinner by kissing him on the mouth after Haugen went to bed. He said the kiss “excited” him “as an old man.” He claimed he suggested that they go downstairs to a spare bedroom and he followed her down, but then decided it wasn’t a good idea.
Badley admitted trying to kiss Jones on the night of Dec. 2. He said she pushed him away and he fell onto the couch. He said he apologized and thanked her because he loves his wife. He fell asleep and Jones was gone when he woke up, he testified.
In the end, a jury may decide which version is more credible. Roe filed a jury demand, which means 12 jurors will hear the case, as opposed to a judge.
Haugen has already filed with the Public Disclosure Commission to run for re-election in 2012.Contact Whidbey News Times Assistant editor Jessie Stensland at email@example.com or 360.675.6611 ext. 5056.