LOS ANGELES — A Los Angeles congressman acknowledged Thursday he is the unnamed target of a lawsuit alleging sexual abuse of a teenage girl more than a decade ago and his lawyer said the allegations were "absolutely false."
Rep. Tony Cardenas is "sickened and distraught by these horrific allegations, which are 100 percent, categorically untrue," attorney Patricia Glaser said in a statement.
The lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court said the girl, a star teenage athlete, was molested in 2007 by an elected politician in the city. Cardenas was a city councilman at the time.
The politician gave the 16-year-old a peculiar-tasting cup of ice water while they played golf, the suit said. She collapsed after drinking it and the man fondled her while driving her to the hospital.
The woman, identified only as Jane Doe, said she received a golf scholarship to a California university, but later quit the sport and dropped out of college because her grades and performance suffered as she tried to cope with the abuse.
After getting pregnant last year, she began having nightmares and eventually connected it to the incident 10 years earlier. She told her fiancé about the abuse and was inspired to speak out by women who were going public with allegations of sexual abuse by prominent figures, the suit said.
"Being pregnant with a baby girl and encouraged by the brave women coming forward in the #MeToo movement, Ms. Doe realized that she could no longer hide or bury the truth of the sexual abuse she had suffered," the suit said.
The lawsuit names the defendant as "John Doe" to protect his identity while a judge reviews the old allegations, said attorney Lisa Bloom, who represents the woman.
Cardenas' lawyer said the woman is the daughter of a disgruntled former employee and could be being manipulated, though Glaser offered no other details.
The statute of limitations for bringing a lawsuit involving childhood sexual abuse extends until an alleged victim is 26 or within three years of discovering a connection between adult psychological injuries and childhood sex abuse, Bloom said. The extension of the time limit requires that the defendant not initially be named.
Bloom would neither confirm nor deny Cardenas was the target. She said the defendant had not yet been served with the lawsuit.
"My understanding is he outted himself," Bloom said. "This is a very unusual situation where someone said, 'It's me,' where we've not named him and before the court has named him."
Cardenas, 55, is a longtime Democratic lawmaker from the San Fernando Valley, who served in the state Legislature and City Council before being elected to Congress in 2012. He grew up as the son of a farmworker in the Central Valley and was the youngest of 11 children.
Glaser asked that colleagues and constituents withhold judgment and said Cardenas expects to be exonerated.
The suit filed last month alleging sexual assault and battery, among other counts, seeks unspecified damages.