ANNAPOLIS — A video of an alleged groping incident between a state senator and a lobbyist is being embraced by both sides as absolute proof of their respective allegations and denials.
The truth of what happened in a four-second interaction where Gil Genn, a former legislator and lobbyist, can be clearly seen touching Sen. Cheryl Kagan, D-Montgomery, may be more difficult to see with just the naked eye.
Kagan and Genn released identical 86-second clips of their interaction during a March 2 evening of karaoke at Castlebay Irish Pub. Both claim the clip vindicates their story even as the footage contradicts earlier statements made by each; a news conference called by Kagan could be more fuel for Genn, whose attorney said he is “considering all options,” including a defamation lawsuit.
Kagan, speaking to the media, said the recording was the kind of proof many women who make claims of harassment wish they had, but instead incidents became cases of “a she said, he said, too often.”
“I have no comprehension of how Gil Genn can watch that video and say it vindicates him and his perspective in that three-page statement in any manner,” said Kagan.
Genn and his lawyer, however, say they strongly believe the video vindicates their position that nothing inappropriate happened.
Timothy Maloney, a partner at Greenbelt-based Joseph Greenwald & Laake and Genn’s attorney, said “the video shows that nothing happened. He never touched her tush ever. There’s no dispute about that. It isn’t a judgment call.”
The pub video
Kagan and Genn can be seen clearly in the bottom right of the frame of the video.
Genn approaches and speaks to Kagan and places his hand on her back for a few seconds. His left hand does appear to move as the two move while speaking. The pair continue to interact for another 80 seconds or so with Genn at some point placing his left hand in his pocket.
Kagan filed a complaint against Genn nearly two weeks ago following a public statement in which she alleged Genn inappropriately touched her.
Kagan at the time said she was at the pub for weekly karaoke and was drinking a club soda when Genn, a lobbyist at Bellamy Genn Group, approached her, talking about the singing. That’s when, she said, he placed his hand on her.
Her statement was released less than a day after Kagan posted on her Facebook page that a then-unnamed lobbyist “put his hand on my back and slid it down down down.”
“I turned my back to him and made it clear that the conversation was over,” Kagan said a day later.
But the video released by Genn does not appear to show Kagan turning her back to the lobbyist after the initial touch.
On Tuesday, Kagan repeated her claims of attempting to end the interaction saying she had “a visceral reaction” to Genn touching her.
The video also contradicts Genn’s claim, made in a March 5 statement, that he was carrying an umbrella and coat that evening and never touched Kagan in what he called an interaction “of all of 10 seconds.”
“I kept my hands to myself,” Genn wrote in that statement. “I did not run my hand down her back or down to her tush. And I especially and consciously avoided the all too common Annapolis legislative ‘hug’ many legislators used to greet one another. I did none of that in my very brief encounter with Senator Kagan. I am 100 percent certain of these facts.”
The senator further alleged at the time that Genn has a history of inappropriately touching her, dating back to when they both served in the House of Delegates. On several occasions during that time, she said, he touched her abdomen just below her breasts.
On Tuesday, Kagan told the press Genn was “a serial harasser and groper” and said at least a half-dozen women have contacted her since she went public with her allegations.
“I have stories about Gil Genn,” said Kagan. “Frankly, mine is the mildest.”
Following Kagan’s statement, Genn issued a strong denial and called for a full investigation.
It is not immediately clear how such a complaint will be handled.
The General Assembly’s human resources office is required under changes made in December to track all sexual harassment complaints it is made aware of and publish them in an annual report. The office, however, does not have jurisdiction over lobbyists. Complaints about lobbyists are handled through the Maryland State Ethics Commission, but that panel currently has no power to investigate sexual harassment claims.
Genn demands apology
Genn, a former state delegate, released the video and demanded a public apology Tuesday morning in advance of Kagan’s news conference.
“The video clearly shows that I did not grope Senator Kagan, slide my hand ‘down, down, down’ or ‘grab [her] tush,'” Genn said in an emailed statement. “With the release of this video, it is now beyond dispute that I did not grab or grope her, as has been reported in the press from Senator Kagan’s statements.”
Genn, in his statement, demanded an apology from Kagan and that she remove all related posts from social media. He also hinted at a potential legal action against the legislator.
“The damage to my reputation has been incalculable, as well as the suffering and harm to my family and our business,” Genn wrote.
“Senator Kagan owes me and my family an apology,” he wrote. “She must immediately remove her false Facebook posts about me. But she cannot remove her false allegations from the internet, which will always be there any time someone Googles my name. That damage is permanent and irreparable, and my counsel is reviewing what can be done about it.”
Maloney, Genn’s attorney, said his client is considering all options including a defamation lawsuit or an ethics complaint against Kagan.
Kagan called Genn’s demand for an apology “absurd.”