Another Former Staffer Accuses Conyers of Sexual Harassment

Leah Barkoukis
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Posted: Nov 28, 2017 8:09 AM
Another Former Staffer Accuses Conyers of Sexual Harassment

Another woman has stepped forward accusing Democratic Rep. John Conyers of inappropriate sexual conduct—this time his former deputy chief of staff.

Deanna Maher, 77, said three instances occurred in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The first time was in 1997 when she turned down an offer to share a hotel room to have sex. Then in 1998 there was unwanted touching in a car, and the following year the same type of behavior of touching her legs under her dress.

"I didn't have a room and he had me put in his hotel suite,” Maher told the Detroit News of the first instance.

As for the others, she said, “He was trying to feel me up with his right hand.”

“I kept pushing his hand away,” she continued. “Then he put his hand on my neck and started trying to tickle me. We were on I-75, and he was driving erratically. I was saved by the bell because we got pulled over by the police for the way he was driving.”

Arnold Reed, Conyers’s attorney, is questioning the allegations because Maher kept working for the lawmaker. 

“At best, they are uncorroborated. At worst, they’re just not believable. When you consider that they’re flying down I-75, he is driving and has time to do all of that, they get pulled over by a police officer, and she doesn’t tell him what’s going on?” Reed told the paper.

“Any female or male that comes forward and says anybody harasses them, that is serious. Those things are not to be taken lightly. But we have to be able to at least have some corroboration if we’re going to be saying my client did something wrong.”

Maher’s reason for staying at the job was that she needed the employment and didn’t report him because of the power imbalance in Washington.

"I needed to earn a living, and I was 57. How many people are going to hire you at that age?" she said.

But it’s not the first time she’s discussed the instances.

Former Detroit Free Press reporter Joel Thurtell said Monday that Maher told him about the alleged abuse at the time, but she didn’t want to go on the record.

“She told me about the sexual harassment claims, but at the time she didn’t feel confident she wouldn’t be hung out to dry and retaliated against,” said Thurtell, who left the Free Press in 2007 and runs a blog, “Joel on the Road.”

“So there was no way I could report it. I spoke with her last week, and she said she just didn’t feel comfortable at the time going on the record with the allegations.”

Maher also discussed the sexual harassment incidents with a Detroit News reporter in 2013 but didn’t want to go on the record. (The Detroit News)

Conyers has stepped down as the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee and is the subject of a House Ethics Committee investigation after it was reported last week that he settled a complaint in 2015 from a former staffer who accused him of firing her for turning down his sexual advances.

He confirmed the settlement but has denied wrongdoing.