Insurer Covered Sexual Assault Lawsuit Settlement For Missouri Senator
St. Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)
JEFFERSON CITY — State Sen. Steve Roberts Jr. said Thursday "me and my family didn't pay a dime" to settle a lawsuit filed by a woman who accused the congressional candidate of sexual assault.
But an insurance company with which Roberts' family had a policy did pay Amy Harms, the woman who accused Roberts, $100,000 as part of a settlement agreement, Roberts' congressional campaign said Thursday.
"Against the wishes of Mr. Roberts, an insurance company reached a settlement agreement, which Ms. Harms has now violated," Simonne Kimble, deputy communications director for the Roberts campaign, said in an emailed statement. "(Neither) Steve Roberts nor anyone in the Roberts family paid anyone a dime."
The statement followed a report in the Intercept on Tuesday that said Roberts settled a civil suit filed by Harms for $100,000 in 2019. Harms accused Roberts of sexual assault four years earlier at a St. Louis bar.
The Intercept reported the settlement included a confidentiality agreement and a release of claims against Roberts.
Roberts' campaign sent the Post-Dispatch a June 2017 letter from an insurance company, Privilege Underwriters Reciprocal Exchange, or PURE, that said "we may investigate and settle any claim or suit at our discretion."
The company, based in White Plains, New York, said it did not cover expenses connected to sexual molestation or personal injuries resulting from criminal or intentional acts.
"The PURE policy specificly (sic) excludes coverage for sexual molestation and expected or intended injury by an insured," the letter said. "In light of these exclusions we see no coverage under your policies for the claims being alledged (sic)."
But the insurance company never found that Harms' claims were true, said Ryan Hawkins, another campaign spokesman.
"What it basically says is if you did this you have no coverage," he said. "The insurance company paid, which verifies that he had insurance coverage."
A copy of the letter was sent to Roberts at his parents' Westmoreland Place home in the Central West End. Roberts' father, Steven C. Roberts Sr., is a former St. Louis alderman and real estate developer; in 2016, he was named chief deputy to St. Louis Sheriff Vernon Betts.
Harms, who did not respond to requests for comment on Thursday, said in a Twitter thread earlier this week that Roberts was guilty and felt no remorse.
"He's done it before. He would do it again," Harms said. "Please keep this in mind when in his presence, not that you would ever be at fault if he were to harm you. Nobody could ever deserve this."
In an emailed statement, her attorney, Matt Ghio, accused Roberts of forcing his client to respond publicly to his charges.
"Senator Roberts' continuing decision to speak about Ms. Harm's allegations to the press and to authorize his congressional campaign spokesman to address the merits of my client's claims are in violation of the agreement Senator Roberts and Ms. Harms reached in 2019," Ghio said. "Senator Roberts breached the agreement first, more than once. Senator Roberts has caused my client to respond publicly to defend herself against his and his campaign's defamatory statements."
Harms claimed Roberts penned her in a corner of a downtown bar in 2015 with his chair and fondled her under a table.
The St. Charles County prosecuting attorney, brought in due to potential conflicts with the St. Louis circuit attorney's office, didn't file charges in the case.
Roberts is running against incumbent U.S. Rep. Cori Bush, D-St. Louis, in the Aug. 2 primary.
Harms is one of two women to publicly accuse Roberts of sexual misconduct.
In 2016, a year after Harms accused Roberts of sexual assault, Cora Faith Walker accused him of rape. At the time, Walker and Roberts were candidates for state representative; in a letter to Missouri House leadership, Walker accused Roberts of raping her. He later sued Walker for defamation, she filed a counterclaim and they reached a confidential settlement in 2019. He disclosed terms of the settlement on Monday because, he said, political foes were using the rape allegation against him.
Walker, who quit the Legislature to become chief policy officer for St. Louis County, died suddenly on March 11 at the age of 37. A cause of death has not been released. Roberts entered the congressional race on March 28.
Kimble, in her statement Thursday, blamed the new round of scrutiny on Bush and her supporters.
"Here goes Cori Bush and her supporters again ... recycling false negative stories in an attempt to distract from her indefensible voting record," Kimble said. "This false allegation was thoroughly investigated by the St. Louis Police Department and an independent prosecutor. It was dropped because it did not happen."
Karthik Ganapathy, spokesperson for Bush's campaign, said "this isn't some political conspiracy."
"Thankfully there are many people in St. Louis who believe women and believe sexual assault survivors when they speak out," Ganapathy said in a statement. "It's absurd and frankly disgusting to blame Rep. Cori Bush, a survivor herself, for people across the district raising valid concerns about Steve Roberts' well-known and well-documented history of sexual assault."
Harms filed the lawsuit in 2017 after prosecutors didn't move forward with charges against Roberts.
The lawsuit was dismissed by both parties in October 2019, according to online court records.
During a news conference Thursday, Senate Minority Leader John Rizzo, D-Independence, was asked whether he had spoken to Roberts about the allegations and the Intercept article.
"I don't read the Intercept," Rizzo said. "He's been a colleague that I've worked with very well, and I don't know anything about that stuff from years ago.
"He has been somebody that we have leaned on here in the Senate to do good work and personally I have no other reason to think otherwise," Rizzo said.
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