There has been much talk of late about Donald Trump and the law. In addition to his regular threats to sue Ted Cruz, LawNewz.com discovered Trump has been named as a plaintiff and defendant in at least 169 different federal lawsuits. Some of the cases have been resolved, a few dismissed as frivolous, others privately settled. In the context of that research, we found one that was particularly interesting, even scandalous. So we did some further digging and obtained an exclusive copy of the $125 million lawsuit filed in 1997, which had been buried deep in a federal archive warehouse in Kansas City, Missouri. The case has almost never been reported on, and the shocking allegations just seemed to suddenly vanish in an era before the widespread availability of the internet.
The lawsuit was filed by Jill Harth who then went by Jill Harth Houraney on April 25, 1997. Harth, who was in her early 30’s at the time, alleged that Trump engaged in hostile and offensive sexual behavior towards her from 1992 to 1997 including “groping” her under her dress on several occasions, “forcibly” moving her to his daughter’s bedroom in an attempt to have sex with her, and repeatedly, aggressively and inappropriately propositioning her for sex. She called it “sexually abusive” and LawNewz.com spoke to her in an exclusive interview.
The 12-page complaint is filled with sordid allegations against Trump, often very specific, and including dates and times. At other points in the filing, she presents second hand accounts of even more boorish behavior that she attributes to Trump.
Harth says she met Trump in her capacity as a pageant producer organizing international model search events in the early 1990’s. This was around the same time that Trump was active in the beauty pageant world. Harth’s lawsuit came as her former husband George Houraney was involved in a breach-of-contract dispute with Trump over a beauty contest at one of Trump’s properties in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
In the lawsuit, Harth alleged that on January 24th 1993 while at Trump’s estate in Mar-A-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida the following happened:
After Trump business associates left, the defendant (Trump) over the plaintiff’s objections forcibly prevented plaintiff from leaving and forcibly removed plaintiff to a bedroom, whereupon defendant (Trump) subjected plaintiff to defendant’s unwanted sexual advances, which included touching of plaintiff’s private parts in an act constituting attempted “rape”
Harth also claimed in the lawsuit that in 1993 Trump made numerous phone calls to her home in Boca Raton, Florida from New York demanding that she “sleep with him.” In the court filing, she also claimed that on January 9, 1993: “Trump forcefully removed (Harth) from public areas of Mar-A-Lago in Florida and forced (her) into a bedroom belonging to defendant’s daughter Ivanka, wherein (Trump) forcibly kissed, fondled, and restrained (her) from leaving, against (her) will and despite her protests.” In the court document, she said that Trump bragged that he”would be the best lover you ever have.”
Harth stated that one of her encounters in 1993 with Trump resulted in her becoming physically ill where she was “nauseated and vomited profusely.”
In addition to her personal accounts, Harth made a litany of other claims against Trump including allegations that he had an adulterous affair, that he retaliated against those who crossed him by making sexually charged allegations and even accused him of making “racial slurs.” Harth said that on the same evening of Jan 9, 1993 at a “Calendar Girl” competition Trump directed “any black female contestant to be excluded.”
At the time, Trump vigorously denied the charges saying the suit “was a desperate attempt to get me to settle a case they can’t win.” But then, not even a month after filing the case, Harth withdrew it. The court record indicates it was “voluntarily dismissed” but “without prejudice,” meaning she could have re-filed the case. The timing is interesting because at around the same time the case was withdrawn, Trump reportedly agreed to settle with her husband’s company, The American Dream Enterprise, according to an obscure 1997 gossip article in the New York Daily News which appears to be the only mainstream media coverage of either suit.
American Dream Enterprise had filed a breach of contract lawsuit in 1995 against Trump which was apparently peppered with Harth’s allegations, according to the Daily News. LawNewz.com reviewed the court docket from the breach-of-contract case and it does indeed show that the affidavits of George Houraney and Jill Harth were both ordered sealed in September of 1996. There are no other accounts of what was contained in those sealed affidavits.
LawNewz.com spoke briefly to Jill Harth in an interview last week. Harth wouldn’t’ discuss the settlement or much about either lawsuit. When asked about the allegations, Harth told LawNewz that she was “under duress” and “pressured” to file the case. But when questioned about who applied that pressure, she wouldn’t say.
So were the sexual harassment allegations true? Harth says: “The allegations were twisted and embellished. Everything could be looked at in different way.”
Harth, who now runs a beauty business, says she’s put the lawsuit behind her, and get this, she says she’d even vote for Donald Trump in the upcoming election — what she calls “supporting a friend.”
“I saw him [Donald] recently, and he said I looked good,” Harth said. “I have nothing but good things to say about Donald.”
Maybe now, but back then she presented a very different relationship with the now Republican front runner.
Here is a copy of the full 1997 lawsuit obtained by LawNewz.com:
[images via Jill Harth’s Facebook, Harth wrote that image with Donald Trump was “TbT. Out Partying with the Donald circa 1992”]
UPDATE 10 p.m. 2/23/2016
We reached out to the Donald Trump Campaign about this story. Michael Cohen, Special Counsel to Mr. Trump told LawNewz.com the following:
“There is no truth to the story at all. The plaintiff in the matter, Jill Harth, would acknowledge the same. You will see the case was voluntarily dismissed without prejudice. There is no truth to it. Unfortunately, Jill was a pawn in a lawsuit that was created by her ex-husband. There is no validation to the matter.”
UPDATE 11:00 a.m. 3/13/2015
Jill Harth sent LawNewz.com the following statement three weeks after our story was first published.
“I never disavowed the complaint to anyone. The comments I made to you were taken out of context and editorialized as you called me out of the blue and caught me by complete surprise. I hadn’t thought about or reviewed that complaint in nearly 20 years. You then took photos from my professional website and social media and posted them in a story without permission and called it an “exclusive interview.” I would have cooperated with a real interview if you had waited until Monday like I asked. Since you did that, it’s forced me to relive a very painful time in my life that I had long since moved on from. The media coverage around the world has caused me more distress and damaged my credibility, reputation, and business. If you or Lawnewz is interested in my life today; my talents as a successful Celebrity Makeup Artist, or the businesses I created, I have no problem commenting on that. But now I will never answer any questions for Lawnewz or it’s affiliates. It has no credibility to me and I am not going to be a pin cushion for the media. I never sought attention about the old complaint that I withdrew. The statement of the Trump attorney Michael Cohen is his alone and is not to be attributed to me. Swearing falsely in a federal complaint is a crime. Jill Harth”
It is worth noting that we did wait until Tuesday February 23 to publish the article — five days after we spoke to Ms. Harth. Following our 10 minute interview with her, we called/texted her multiple times to follow up about the interview and ask her additional questions. She never responded until after the story was posted.