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‘He Held Her Down and Choked Her’: Fired Magistrate Alleges Assault, Rampant Sexual Misconduct in Suit


A recently terminated magistrate in Virginia Beach filed a federal lawsuit Saturday alleging that she was the victim of rampant sexual misconduct at the hands of multiple members of the court.

Karly Cahill’s complaint against the Office of the Executive Secretary of Virginia’s Supreme Court alleges widespread substance abuse, sexual harassment, and at least one reported incident of assault in what she describes as a “toxic and hostile work environment.”

In one instance, Cahill accused a Virginia Beach magistrate of entering her home and choking her. According to the filed complaint, in April of last year, Cahill was forced to call the police when a highly intoxicated magistrate physically assaulted her in her own home, leading her to fear for her life.

“Police responded to the scene, and Ms. Cahill explained to the officers exactly her account of what happened, which to this day has not been refuted, and which account was backed up by text messages in Ms. Cahill’s possession,” the complaint reads. “He had held her down and choked her to the point where she later lost her voice; and he would not leave Ms. Cahill’s apartment after he stopped choking her.”

Cahill also leveled numerous other allegations amongst the ranks of Virginia Beach magistrates, as well as claims that police officers photographed her in court and made lewd remarks about her to one another.

The plaintiff claimed that in 2016 she reported to her supervisor that a nearby homeless man had exposed himself to her and began touching himself. That supervisor allegedly replied, “So, you got the birthday present I sent you.”

In another place, Cahill claimed that at a then-magistrate judge became so intoxicated at the work-related 2016 Annual Magistrate Conference that he was persistently falling down, leading Cahill to help walk him back to his room. During their walk, that then-magistrate allegedly vomited before attempting to kiss Cahill and asking her to take part in a “threesome.” Cahill said she rebuffed these advances.

Cahill accused another magistrate judge of sexual battery, accusing him of “grabbing her waist and buttocks and trying to pull Ms. Cahill onto his lap,” after she and two police officers helped that magistrate into an Uber because he was too drunk to do so on his own.

Cahill said she also accused him of making discriminatory remarks about her during her tenure, including saying he “did not mind if Ms. Cahill came into his office, because he liked her butt.” She claimed that the magistrate who allegedly choked her heard “several of these comments.”

The plaintiff further claimed that she became aware that Virginia Beach police officers took pictures of her at court and sent those images to their fellow cops with “suggestive, sex-related captions”:

Ms. Cahill learned that while working in her capacity as a Magistrate in the Virginia Beach Circuit Courthouse, Virginia Beach police officers present at her hearings were digitally photographing her during her hearings.

The police officers were then transmitting said pictures to other police officers with suggestive, sex-related captions, one of which was: “I’d fuck the shit out of this Magistrate.”

Cahill claimed that even after she brought this to the attention of her supervisor that neither he nor “any other superior at her office took any action to stop this disgusting behavior.”

Law&Crime reached out to the Virginia Beach Magistrate Office for comment. We were told there was no comment at this time.

Cahill claimed that she was ultimately retaliated against and fired because she filed a Title VII violation complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

“The Virginia Beach Magistrate’s Office subjected Ms. Cahill to a work environment that was both subjectively and objectively sexually hostile to her,” that complaint said. “This constitutes discrimination by the Commonwealth of Virginia, her employer, on the basis of her sex in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.”

Cahill said this was her first job out of law school.

The investigator of the EEOC complaint (h/t Courthouse News) said it was “closing its file” on the charge and “issue[d] the following determination”:

Based upon its investigation, the EEOC is unable to conclude that the information obtained establishes violations of the statutes. This does not certify that the respondent is in compliance with the statutes. No finding is made as to any other issues that might be construed as having been raised by this charge.

The EEOC then noted Cahill’s right to file a lawsuit within 90 days of her “receipt of this notice.” The letter was dated April 30; the lawsuit was filed on July 27.

In the lawsuit, Cahill said the reasons given for her firing were “profanity and alcohol abuse.” The plaintiff said that “profanity was often used in the office pervasively enough that supervisors had to be aware of the use of profanity,” and yet “no one was ever disciplined, much less fired, for using profanity,” except her.

“All of the above instances of profanity and swearing – even Magistrates while in the performance of their duties calling African American citizens ‘monkeys’, which goes beyond mere casual swearing and shows an intolerable racial bias among judicial officers in the office – show that profanity and swearing (and worse) was condoned in the office and resulted in no discipline for anyone – except for Ms. Cahill, when she was fired for using profanity, on May 2, 2018,” the lawsuit said.

Cahill is seeking $600,000 in compensatory damages for her emotional distress and mental anguish, and $14,002 for lost wages.

You can read the lawsuit for yourself here.

[image via Alex Staroseltsev/Shutterstock]

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Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.