By Ken Stone
A new sexual harassment accuser of Mickey Kasparian exhibited palpable fear of the San Diego labor leader last week during a deposition where he was present.
“I fear for my safety, almost for a year at this point, and I’m experiencing outbursts from this side of the room,” Melody Godinez said under oath Dec. 7, referring to Kasparian.
Her lawyer, Manuel Corrales, told UFCW Local 135 attorney Michael Feinberg: “I’m trusting that you will keep your client at bay.”Later in the 3-hour deposition, the 5 1/2-year deputy county clerk is asked: “You were afraid of [Kasparian]?
Godinez replies: “Correct. I was afraid of the ramifications not just with my career but with my safety. Just like I’m afraid right now that he might take a gun out.”
Despite admitting longtime admiration for Kasparian — who even pushed a threatening man away from her at a “Fight for 15” demonstration in 2014 — Godinez accuses Kasparian of six sexual assaults in a new lawsuit.
In a statement hand-delivered to The San Diego Union-Tribune, which first reported the suit, Kasparian said: “To be very clear, I have never — not once — been alone at any time with Ms. Godinez as she suggests. There are no truth or facts to anything she has said. Zero.”
The “gender violence” complaint filed Wednesday in San Diego Superior Court says the president of the local United Food and Commercial Workers Union was guilty of “vile and despicable” conduct.
The suit, assigned to Judge Eddie Sturgeon, says Kasparian “acted with malice, oppression, fraud in conscious disregard of plaintiff’s rights and well-being, entitling Godinez to recover punitive damages against Local 135.”
A jury trial is sought, as well as unspecified general and punitive damages, according to the suit signed by attorney Dan Gilleon, who also represents three other Kasparian accusers, including Isabel Vasquez, present for the Godinez deposition.
The accusations include what Godinez insists was an attempt by Kasparian to arrange a three-woman sex encounter in a large “opulent” suite at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront.
“He wanted us to have a foursome with him,” Godinez says in the 32,000-word transcript. “And I was concerned that if I didn’t go upstairs he would have sexual relations with my friend Alicia [Nichols]. And I was worried about her.”
Godinez, 31, says Monica Bonilla, the third woman identified in the deposition, told her in 2015 that she was having an affair with Kasparian, 59, a La Mesa resident who is married.
“She told me that she had affairs with other older men and I shouldn’t be shocked that she likes power — and he had power — and that she likes to have a sugar daddy,” Godinez says in the deposition.
But Feinberg, Kasparian’s lawyer, grilled Godinez, suggesting that she harbored romantic feelings for women and was drunk on numerous occasions. (She says in the deposition she has “been very open” about her bisexuality.)
Feinberg asked: “Somewhere to the spring of 2016, isn’t it true you got drunk at a happy hour fundraiser for Sarah Saez’s campaign for San Diego City Council?”
Godinez: “I don’t recall at this time.”
Feinberg: “Isn’t it true you hit on Sarah during that fundraiser?”
Godinez: “I don’t recall at this time. Sarah’s a very friendly person. She hugs people. She used to hug me before this situation that divided the labor movement.”
Godinez later alleges that Saez, who works at UFCW Local 135, called Godinez (under an assumed name) and “made me feel like my life and my mother’s life was in danger. She said, ‘Your mom is a whore.'”
On Friday, Saez emphatically denied the phone chat took place and said: “I haven’t spoken to Melody in at least two years.”
Saez also confirmed what Feinberg said in a line of questioning, supported by a text message from Godinez — that Godinez wanted Saez to be her wife.
The former District 9 City Council candidate said she has “witnesses that can testify” that Godinez made romantic overtures to Saez at a campaign fundraiser.
Also rejecting Godinez allegations was David Garcias, president of the union Godinez belongs to — SEIU Local 221.
In the deposition provided to Times of San Diego by her legal team, Godinez accuses Garcias of “colluding” with Kasparian to remove her from the SEIU executive board as punishment for “standing up for the three sisters that have the lawsuits against Mr. Kasparian.”
Garcias on Thursday night said via email: “While we cannot discuss complaints against individual board members and any resulting actions, I can say categorically that no action was ever discussed, threatened or taken against Ms. Godinez as a result of her position regarding this lawsuit. We are not a party or witness in the lawsuit.”
Friday afternoon, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher — a former ally of Kasparian at the San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council — called on him to resign in a Facebook post:
Godinez was being deposed — in the Rancho Bernardo offices of attorney Corrales — as part of discovery proceedings in the Vasquez case, in which she alleges Kasparian pressured her into a 15-year, sporadic sexual relationship.
The Godinez suit says the first sexual assault was in May 2014 in the Mission Valley parking lot of Hunter Steakhouse.
“After a political event, Kasparian convinced Godinez to get into his car with him where he, without Godinez’s consent, groped her breasts, inside of her thighs and vaginal area, and attempted to kiss her on the lips,” the suit says.[contextly_sidebar id=”8whQT5QcfRTDLofrmWWUc7DxScKn7851″]The dates of three alleged assaults weren’t specified, but occurred in late 2015 and early 2016, the suit says.
“On one occasion,” the suit says, “Kasparian telephoned Godinez and, during the call, it became clear to Godinez that Kasparian was masturbating. Godinez confronted Kasparian after she heard noises suggesting he had ejaculated, and Kasparian admitted that he had been masturbating and had climaxed.”
The last alleged assault was in Kasparian’s office at the Local 135 headquarters in Mission Valley.
“Kasparian convinced Godinez to accompany him into his office after a political event,” the suit said. “Kasparian began drinking whiskey and asked Godinez to drink too, but she declined. Soon, Kasparian put his hand down the front of Godinez’s pants, making skin to skin contact with her genital area. He groped her breasts and laid on top of her so that she could not leave.”
In the deposition, Godinez said “he pinned me down against the sofa — against the couch. And the entire time I felt helpless. I knew that there could be ramifications if I brought it up to anybody…. I felt I was being raped…. I felt like the assault that happened was probably something that he did to other women.”
Asked why she still thought of Kasparian as a friend and mentor amid the alleged attacks, Godinez eventually said: “I think in my heart I always see the best in people.
“And Mr. Kasparian had expressed on numerous occasions that he cared about workers. And a part of me was hopeful that the previous incidents were isolated,” said Godinez, a Palomar College student who hopes to pursue legal studies and a transfer to Sacramento State.
Kasparian lawyer Feinberg, in the deposition, explained why his client was acting agitated over the Godinez remarks.
“When we hear comments that are the first time anyone has ever said such a thing and it is clear to my client that his reputation is being sullied and that the witness is lying, it is not unexpected that he might have a visceral reaction,” Feinberg said.
Lawyer Corrales began to say: “You’ll keep your client at ——
Feinberg: “Certainly. He’s not going to be of any harm to her.”
Godinez: “He already has harmed me, sir.”
Updated at 2:45 p.m. Dec. 15, 2017
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