Deanna Maher worked for Rep. John Conyers until 2005
The House Ethics Committee announced last week it will investigate Conyers
Another former aide to Democratic Rep. John Conyers of Michigan is accusing him of sexual harassment.
Deanna Maher told CNN that Conyers made three sexual advances toward her when she worked for him in his district office in Detroit from 1997 to 2005.
Maher says she considered telling her story over the years, but never went on the record with it until now. The Detroit-News first published her allegations Tuesday based on an interview she gave the newspaper this week. She told CNN last week that the societal moment of reckoning on issues of sexual harassment and abuse of power across the country that gave her the confidence that she would finally be believed.
“For the young people that Conyers continually brought in … I can’t forget them. I cannot forget them,” Maher told CNN. “I saw all the lives that were impacted by the system. I call it ‘system’ in Capitol Hill, of how these members protect each other.”
Arnold E. Reed, a lawyer representing Conyers, told CNN on Tuesday that the Congressman does not plan to resign and denied the former staffer’s allegations.
“Mr. Conyers has indicated from day one that he hasn’t done anything wrong, hasn’t engaged in any type of sexual harassment with any former employee or anyone,” Reed said, adding that the allegations are “serious and are being taken seriously.”
Reed reiterated that Conyers would cooperate fully with any investigation, and that the process will “play itself out.”
The House Ethics Committee announced last week it has opened an investigation into allegations against Conyers after Buzzfeed reported that he settled a wrongful dismissal complaint in 2015 after allegedly sexually harassing a staffer. Conyers denied wrongdoing in that case as well but acknowledged that there had been a financial settlement to that complaint.
Conyers stepped down from his position as top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee on Sunday.
Maher, who left Conyers’ office in 2005, said that Conyers office had a sexually suggestive culture that made her uncomfortable many times. She said that one of his staffers also sexually assaulted her in January 2001, forcibly kissing her.
But an FBI document obtained by Maher shared with CNN the FBI claimed she did not wish to prosecute – something she disputes.
Maher made similar reports to the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct in January 2004. She shared those reports and other supporting documents with CNN.
The committee said they have no comment on the reports. The FBI could immediately be reached for comment.
It wasn’t until she left the office that she also began telling people that Conyers also put her in uncomfortable situations at least three times.
The first instance was in 1997, when Conyers invited her to Washington for a conference, and she realized upon arrival she had to stay in his two-bedroom hotel suite.
“So I got into bed and all of the sudden, John Conyers walked into my bedroom,” Maher told CNN. “If you can imagine how ridiculous I looked, I put on my suitcoat. I had a suit coat on in bed. I was shaking. I was absolutely shaking. And he took off his clothes and then I figured it out: ‘Oh my God. What did I do? How stupid. At my age, that I walked in and got myself into a situation like that.’”
Maher says she was in her 50s at the time. “So, it was just silent with the TV on and I’m sitting there in bed with my suit coat on, shaking,” she said. “He didn’t touch me, so he just stormed out of the room because I didn’t say anything.”
She locked the door, and the next morning got her own hotel room.
Maher was one of two women who spoke out about different allegations of Conyers’ misconduct to CNN’s Drew Griffin in 2006. The story focused on Conyers use of Congressional staff to babysit his kids. Maher said she was forced to babysit for weeks at a time.
That babysitting incident, she later told CNN, made her feel that Conyers wanted a sexual relationship with her.
But two more incidents cemented her gut feeling, she said.
In the Spring of 1998, she said, “I was instructed to drive him to the airport and he was driving erratically. … Erratically because his hand was feeling me all over my — what do you call it? — all over my abdomen.”
She shoved his hand away, she said, and the incident ended when she says Conyers was stopped by police for bad driving and given a warning.
Another time, she said, she was helping him host an event in the Detroit suburb of Highland Park. She believes this was in 1999.
“He walked up on a stage, and this was in front of a lot of people, and he walked up to act like he was whispering in my ear something about the town hall meeting and he stuck his hand up my dress, and whispered in my ear ‘Wow, you’ve got great looking legs.’ I don’t know if anyone else there saw it. I don’t know. But if anyone did see it, no one would report it.”
Maher said that she never reported Conyers at the time because she was afraid to lose her job.
“I wasn’t, well, I don’t want to say desperate, but I was coming out of a marriage,” Maher told CNN. “I had no income. I didn’t settle for quite a while and I needed money to live on so I know that, that particular predicament that you’re in. And it’s awful, you’re so vulnerable and you’re willing to say OK, OK. The person says jump, you say how high.”
“I came out relatively unscathed, luckier than most, and I felt so badly for the young people, young people that I left behind,” she said.
This story has been updated and will continue to update with additional developments.
CORRECTION: This story has been updated to correct when Maher gave an interview describing the sexual harassment she endured from Conyers.
CNN’s Juana Summers and Sophie Tatum contributed to this report.