High-profile conservative activist Matt Schlapp is denying claims of sexual assault and wants the man who is accusing him to be publicly identified, according to court documents filed Thursday in the lawsuit against Schlapp and his wife, Mercedes Schlapp.
The documents claim the lawsuit, which seeks more than $9 million in damages from the Schlapps, “reeks of gamesmanship and hypocrisy” and say the accuser’s request to remain anonymous “is utterly without justification.”
The Schlapps state the staffer’s identity should be made public because they allege that his own reputation should be questioned, asserting that the staffer can’t “meet his burden of showing special circumstances which outweigh the public interest in knowing his name,” according to the documents.
“Plaintiff simply cannot proceed on his claims of alleged impropriety by the Defendants while shielding from scrutiny his own past admitted unsavory affiliations with white nationalists and anti-Semites by proceeding as a ‘John Doe,’” the documents say.
The initial complaint said the staffer, identified only as John Doe, faced an “unusual risk of retaliatory physical or mental harm” if he was named, based on the Schlapps’ popularity and prominence.
The Schlapps are now being represented by attorney Benjamin Chew, known for winning the defamation case against actor Johnny Depp. The 2022 trial, which saw a jury award Depp $15 million in his lawsuit against former wife Amber Heard, became known for airing many personal and intimate details publicly.
The original lawsuit, filed in January, alleges that Schlapp, the president of the American Conservative Union, inappropriately fondled the genital area of a male Republican strategist during a car ride back to Schlapp’s hotel in Atlanta last year. Schlapp was in Georgia for Herschel Walker’s Senate campaign and had spoken at an event earlier in the day. The staffer was assigned to drive Schlapp back to his hotel, and to another Walker event scheduled for the following morning.
In addition to sexual battery allegations against Matt Schlapp, the lawsuit also accuses both Schlapps of defamation and conspiracy to discredit the staffer.
The Schlapps’ response to the lawsuit denies all claims of sexual battery and inappropriate touching but admits to phone calls and text messages exchanged between Matt Schlapp and the staffer, which have been previously reported and reviewed by CNN.
The Schlapps admit to a text message in which Matt Schlapp suggests he and the staffer meet up for drinks, writing, “I have a dinner at 7. May grab a beer after if you want to join let me know.” The staffer responds, “I’d enjoy that,” according to the documents.
The Schlapps also admit to a phone call later the night of the alleged incident, to arrange pickup for the following morning, and a text message at 7:26 a.m. from Matt Schlapp to the staffer that said, “I’m in the lobby,” waiting for the staffer to drive him to the planned Walker event in Macon, Georgia.
CNN previously reported that after the alleged sexual assault, the staffer notified Walker campaign officials, who told him not to drive Schlapp in the morning and to instead give him the phone number to a local car service.
The staffer responded to Schlapp’s text, saying, “I did want to say I was uncomfortable with what happened last night. The campaign does have a driver who is available to get you to Macon and back to the airport,” and provided the number. The Schlapps admit to this detail in the court documents and to three attempts Matt Schlapp made to call the staffer, which went unanswered.
Several hours later, Matt Schlapp texted the staffer, “If you could see it in your heart to call me at the end of day. I would appreciate it. If not I wish you luck on the campaign and hope you keep up the good work” – another exchange the Schlapps admit to in the documents.
As part of the defamation count in the original lawsuit, the complaint claimed that Mercedes Schlapp sent a message to a neighborhood group text that smeared the staffer’s character and claimed he’d been fired from jobs for “lying and lying on his resume.” The Schlapps deny that allegation in their response.
The Schlapps are requesting the court dismiss the complaint. A preliminary hearing on whether the staffer should be identified is set for March 8 in Alexandria Circuit Court in Virginia.
The staffer and his attorney declined to provide further comment.