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    Former Boston.com editor says she does not know date of text exchange at center of legal dispute

    A former Boston.com editor and writer asserted in court filings Tuesday that The Boston Globe is trying to intimidate and silence her after she accused Globe editor Brian McGrory of sending an inappropriate text message, but she conceded she does not have the original exchange in question and cannot recall if it was sent while she was working at the Globe-owned news website.

    The filing comes just days before a judge is to hear arguments in a lawsuit the Globe filed against the former Boston.com staffer, Hilary Sargent, that seeks to compel her to reveal more information about the text exchange.

    Last month, the Globe filed the suit, saying Sargent’s refusal to turn over the date of the allegedly inappropriate text message has made it impossible to determine whether she was an employee of the Globe at the time it was sent.

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    The Globe said her failure to cooperate with its investigation of the exchange violated the terms of her 2016 separation agreement from the organization.

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    Sargent worked at the Globe from June 1998 to August 1999 as an editorial assistant and again from January 2014 to February 2016 as an editor and writer at the Globe-run Boston.com, according to the court filing.

    “Given the disparity in resources and influences between me and the Globe, I believe this lawsuit is an effort to both intimidate and silence me,” she said in an affidavit dated Tuesday.

    She added, “Furthermore, this lawsuit sends a negative message to anyone who might speak out about similar issues, and it will undoubtedly deter others from coming forward, whether they experienced this type of behavior at the Globe or elsewhere.”

    In a Tuesday statement, McGrory’s attorney, Martin Murphy, said his client has given “the Globe full access to his phone, computers, texts, and e-mail.”

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    “Those communications confirm exactly what he has said from the start. He has never sexually harassed anyone, Ms. Sargent included,” said Murphy. “And he has never acted disrespectfully to Ms. Sargent, whom he once dated when she did not work at the Globe.”

    In her Tuesday affidavit, Sargent said an electronic version of the messages “may prove impossible to recover.”

    “The exchange, however, is merely an example of the nature of messages McGrory sent me during the time I was employed at the Globe which I believe are inappropriate and sexually suggestive,” she said in the affidavit. She did not provide other text messages, however.

    A Globe spokeswoman, in an e-mail Tuesday night, said the company was reviewing the Tuesday court filings.

    The Globe’s lawsuit was filed five days after Sargent posted a text exchange on Twitter in which one of the parties asks the other, “What do you generally wear when you write?” She attributed the question to McGrory and, through a tweet accompanying the screenshot, said it was an example of workplace harassment. The screenshot does not identify the parties or indicate the date of the exchange, but Sargent later said it was sent by McGrory.

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    Sargent did provide copies of e-mails she sent to top Globe managers in late 2017, urging the paper’s leadership to examine how women have been treated within its own ranks. She has said she never got a response.

    According to court documents, Sargent e-mailed Globe president Vinay Mehra last November saying, “Sexual harassment within the Globe isn’t a new thing, nor is it just an old thing. It’s both.”

    In a December e-mail to Globe owner John Henry, Sargent, according to court filings, wrote, “I’m not on a mission against the Globe. I think if you know my experience — which I haven’t disclosed but which spans both my intern experience as well as my recent time at the Globe — it will help you ensure the Globe is a safe place for young women in the years to come. I think that’s important.”

    In a note to staff last month, McGrory said he did not recall the text exchange Sargent cited, but he said he has told the Globe’s owners that they should try to retrieve the texts by whatever means possible.

    “I have never harassed Hilary Sargent or any other women at the Globe or anywhere else — ever,” he wrote.

    In that note to staff, McGrory said he had no role in Sargent’s hire at Boston.com in 2014 and that she did not report to him, even indirectly. Sargent, in her affidavit, called those statements “patently false.”

    In a court filing on Tuesday, Sargent’s attorney, Jack Siegal, said McGrory “should be able to fill in the evidentiary gaps” in the matter and if he can’t, “it is likely because he destroyed the evidence.” McGrory’s lawyer, Murphy, called such an assertion “ridiculous” on Tuesday night.

    McGrory has recused himself from overseeing the Globe’s coverage of Sargent’s allegations against him.

    Mark Arsenault, Michael Levenson, and Travis Andersen of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Danny McDonald can be reached at daniel.mcdonald@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @Danny__McDonald.