Senate says defamation lawsuit against Leach accuser will not affect investigation

By: - March 15, 2019 10:38 am

Sen. Daylin Leach. (State photo)

As a state senator’s defamation lawsuit against a woman accusing him of sexual assault advances through court, Democratic Senate leaders in Harrisburg insisted this week it won’t affect their independent investigation of the accuser’s claims.

Cara Taylor, 44, sparked an investigation by Senate Democrats earlier this year when she said that state Sen. Daylin Leach, D-Montgomery, coerced her to perform oral sex on him in 1991.

At the time, she was 17, and Leach was a 30-year-old attorney representing her mother in a criminal case.

Leach has denied all the allegations, but stepped down from his leadership position on the Senate Judiciary Committee after news of the investigation was reported by PennLive.

He also filed defamation suits against Taylor and two women who shared her story, saying they spread false and malicious allegations to derail his political career.

Taylor’s attorneys denied Leach’s claims in a response filed in Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas on Thursday, saying that their client cannot be guilty of defamation as long as her allegations are true.

They also accused Leach of “weaponizing the courts” to silence an accuser.

“This lawsuit is the ultimate silencing and revictimization,” said attorney Marni Snyder, whose Philadelphia law office has teamed up with Brooklyn-based firm C.A. Goldberg, PLLC* to represent Taylor. It is transparent that Daylin Leach has filed this lawsuit in part to get ahead of the Democratic Caucus investigation. To the extent that filing this lawsuit hasn’t tainted the investigation or its procedures, Cara intends to cooperate.”

A spokesperson for Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa, D-Allegheny, said Thursday that the lawsuit has not interfered with the investigation into Taylor’s claims.

Costa spokesperson Brittany Crampsie said that Eckert Seamans, the law firm hired to handle the investigation, has conducted “numerous” interviews with cooperative parties in recent weeks.

“Simply put, Senator Leach’s defamation action has not — and will not — deter Eckert Seamans’ from completing its investigation for the Caucus,” Crampsie told the Capital-Star. “The Caucus expects to receive a response from the firm in the near future.”

Snyder confirmed that Taylor has already been contacted by the Senate’s investigators.

Reached through a spokesperson late Thursday, Leach denied claims that he filed the defamation lawsuit to curtail the Senate investigation.

“I’m told the Senate investigation will be completed within the next couple of weeks. Litigation can take years,” Leach said. “I have no incentive to compromise any investigation into Ms. Taylor’s provably false claims.”

Leach also said that Taylor’s allegations “continue to change dramatically with each new telling,” but did not cite any specific discrepancies between past claims and those in the most recent filing.

The documents that Taylor’s attorneys filed Thursday reaffirm as true her allegation that Leach coerced her to perform oral sex on him in the summer of 1991.

Leach was serving as a defense attorney for Taylor’s mother, who was charged with the attempted murder of her ex-husband.

The filing also reiterated Taylor’s claim that Leach allowed her to commit perjury by confessing to her step-father’s attempted murder under oath.

The attorneys say Taylor confessed to the crime because she did not want her mother to go to jail and because Leach told her that a minor would get off with a shorter sentence.

They also accuse Leach of trying to discredit and humiliate Taylor in his initial suit by detailing her “teenage conduct” in 1991 and 1992, when she was 17-year old single mother who worked as a stripper.

“[These materials serve] no purpose other than to degrade and slut-shame Taylor,” the attorneys write. “The inclusion of the most sordid and select details of Taylor’s past—and without context— serves no purpose other than to scandalize.”

Now that Taylor’s attorneys have filed their response, Leach can choose to file a counterclaim. On Thursday, he stood by his belief that suing Taylor was a justifiable response to her public allegations against him.

“I didn’t want to bring a lawsuit against anyone, including Ms. Taylor,” Leach said. “However, after months of enduring repeated defamatory and false public accusations, I believe that this is the only way to resolve this matter, get to the truth and clear my name.”

*This story was updated on Friday, March 15 to include the name of the Brooklyn law firm co-representing Taylor.

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Elizabeth Hardison
Elizabeth Hardison

Elizabeth Hardison covered education policy, election administration, criminal justice and legislative news for the Capital-Star from Jan. 2019-April 2021. You can find her on Twitter @ElizHardison.