Report: Florida senator likely touched woman inappropriately
By BRENDAN FARRINGTON
Dec. 20, 2017
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — An investigation into a Florida state senator accused of groping a single woman uncovered another witness who said he routinely touched her in a sexual manner and offered to support legislation in exchange for sexual favors.
Former Judge Ronald Swanson conducted the investigation into Republican Sen. Jack Latvala and found in a report issued Tuesday that the woman who filed the complaint against him was likely telling the truth, but details from other witnesses described even more extreme behavior.
"If any of this is true, he needs to resign immediately for the victims, for the people of Florida and for his family," Republican Sen. Dana Young said. "With this report showing extreme circumstances, his continued presence in the Senate through session would be a tremendous distraction from the important work we need to accomplish."
Ronald Swanson recommended the Senate sanction Latvala, who is also running for governor. The Senate will begin its annual session Jan. 9 and the Senate Rules Committee will meet Jan. 11 to consider the report.
Swanson said some of Latvala's actions may have violated public corruption laws and recommended that allegations be referred to law enforcement.
One former lobbyist said that Latvala would touch her inappropriately, including touching the outside of her bra and panties, every time they were alone in the office. She said he "intimated to her on multiple occasions, that if she engaged in sexual acts or allowed him to touch her body in a sexual manner he would support legislative items for which she was lobbying," Swanson wrote. That included explicit text messages sent to the woman.
The woman said she tolerated the unwanted touching for two years. "I felt it was something he felt entitled to," she said in the report.
The investigation began after a complaint filed by Rachel Perrin Rogers, a top aide to Senate Majority Leader Wilton Simpson. Perrin Rogers accused Latvala of inappropriate touching in a Capitol elevator, at a private club and other occasions.
She said on many occasions, Latvala would comment on her appearance by saying she looked "hot" and would stare at her chest as she tried to talk about legislative issues with him.
Other witnesses said Latvala is known to make grunting or growling sounds aimed at woman, and a lobbyist said she was touched her in an unwelcome manner three or four times.
Perrin Rogers' attorney said in a press release that the report confirms that Latvala created a hostile work environment for Perrin Rogers, and she criticized him for trying to undermine Perrin Rogers during the investigation.
"Jack Latvala and his legal team have made a mockery of a process that is legally obligated to protect accusers and the accused equally. They victimized Rachel by violating her confidentiality and threatening her and her family, all in an attempt to intimidate witnesses and other victims from coming forward," Tiffany Cruz said.
Latvala didn't answer his cellphone Tuesday evening. He has admitting to occasionally telling women he's friendly with that they're "looking hot," but that he's never touched anyone against their will, the report said.
His son, state Rep. Chris Latvala, tweeted late Tuesday, "I am as proud today to be the son of @JackLatvala as I was yesterday or last month."