House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) on Saturday called for an ethics investigation into Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D., Calif.) for allegations he sexually assaulted a minor more than a decade ago.
"I have spoken with Congressman Cárdenas and he appropriately asked us to withhold judgement until there is a full investigation of the facts," Pelosi said in a statement. "I call upon the House Ethics Committee for a prompt investigation of this matter."
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Cárdenas has vehemently denied the allegations through his lawyer and has reached out to his Democratic colleagues to insist that he is innocent, but he has agreed to cooperate with Pelosi's probe, according to Politico.
In calls with fellow lawmakers, Cárdenas identified himself as the unnamed "John Doe" in a lawsuit filed in Los Angeles last week, according to Democratic aides. In the lawsuit, Cárdenas is accused of sexually molesting a teenage girl after a golf outing in 2007 while he was a member of the L.A. City Council.
Cárdenas is accused of offering the underage woman, who was 16 at the time, water with an "unusual taste," according to the Los Angeles Times. After the woman collapsed, the lawsuit alleges Cárdenas sexually assaulted her during a drive to the hospital.
"During the ride, he reached inside her shirt and rubbed her breasts, the suit alleges. He also reached down her shorts and fondled her vagina, according to the suit," the Times reported.
Patricia Glaser, Cárdenas’ attorney, pushed back against the allegations, calling the unnamed plaintiff in the case "the daughter of a disgruntled former employee." She went on to say the girl might be a "victim of manipulation."
"My client is sickened and distraught by these horrific allegations, which are 100%, categorically untrue," Glaser said in a statement."We respect victims who have found the strength to come forward and call out misconduct when it has actually occurred, but the type of baseless and reckless allegations that are contained in the complaint against my client can ruin the lives and careers of innocent people."
Cárdenas, the chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’ political action committee, has served in the House since 2013.