Alleged sexual assault victim files suit against Hefner and Rosenberg
A then-State House aide who said Bryon Hefner sexually assaulted him is suing both the 31-year-old and his husband, former Senate president Stanley C. Rosenberg, alleging the former lawmaker “knew or was aware” that Hefner posed a risk to others, yet continually allowed him access to State House staff, lobbyists, and others.
The civil lawsuit — filed last week by the man’s attorney, Mitchell Garabedian — expands the legal trouble for Hefner, who already faces multiple criminal counts of sexual assault. But it marks the first court action taken against Rosenberg, 68, who left his perch as one of the state’s most powerful lawmakers last year amid allegations against his husband.
The plaintiff, identified as John Doe in court filings, said Hefner sexually assaulted him at least three times in 2015 and 2016, and as a result of Hefner’s “lascivious conduct,” he suffers from depression, anxiety, and physical ailments, including gastrointestinal problems.
Reached via text message Tuesday, Rosenberg declined to comment. Hefner’s attorney, Tracy A. Miner, did not return a call or e-mail.
Garabedian declined to say if his client is among the alleged victims in the criminal case against Hefner.
But the allegations and dates detailed in the suit are identical to those involving one of the men who prosecutors say Hefner repeatedly groped.
The lawsuit also appears to draw heavily from a scathing Senate ethics investigation into Rosenberg, recounting several conclusions investigators drew in their May 2 report on the former senator.
The lawsuit accuses Rosenberg of making “excuses” for Hefner’s conduct, and “equipping defendant Hefner with the tools to act as an actual agent for” the Amherst Democrat.
As a result, it was Rosenberg who subjected the plaintiff, and others, to Hefner even though he “knew or was aware that defendant Hefner posed a substantial risk of serious harm,” the 16-page complaint charges.
“Rosenberg and . . . Hefner made an agreement or had a common design or understanding to give defendant Hefner access to individuals who worked, communicated with or lobbied at the Massachusetts Legislature or at the Massachusetts State House, including the plaintiff, with whom defendant Hefner could engage in unwanted sexual touching,” according to the complaint.
Garabedian declined to comment beyond the filing, citing the active criminal case against Hefner.
A judge overseeing the civil suit has scheduled a hearing for Wednesday in Suffolk Superior Court to decide whether to continue to seal the plaintiff’s name from public view.
In the lawsuit, the plaintiff, who was working at the time as a House aide, said he met Hefner at a bar on June 18, 2015, to discuss “political matters” before joining him at Rosenberg’s Beacon Hill condo to await a mutual friend.
Once there, Hefner and the plaintiff were having drinks on the couch when Hefner put his hand between the man’s legs, the lawsuit alleges.
The plaintiff pushed his hand away, but Hefner groped him “several more times” before unzipping the plaintiff’s pants without his consent, according to the lawsuit.
The plaintiff eventually got up and waited in a bathroom before their mutual friend arrived.
The next spring, Hefner groped the plaintiff again, the lawsuit charges, this time in April while they were riding in the back seat of a car en route to a political event in Boston. With Rosenberg sitting in the front seat, the plaintiff said he had to push Hefner’s hand away and told him, “screw off” — after which Rosenberg said, “Knock it off back there,” according to the lawsuit.
Hefner and the plaintiff were later seated next to each other at a dinner in Boston, when he said Hefner groped him again while they sat at a table with Rosenberg, another senator, and members of Rosenberg’s staff.
The plaintiff said he didn’t report Hefner because he feared Rosenberg would retaliate against him.
Rosenberg has said he didn’t have any knowledge of allegations of sexual assault against Hefner before they were made public.
“The conduct of defendant Hefner . . . is extreme and outrageous, beyond all possible bounds of decency, and utterly intolerable in a civilized community,” the complaint reads.
The lawsuit does not seek specific damages on any of its six counts, which include assault, battery, and civil conspiracy.
It said the plaintiff has suffered emotional injuries, lost earnings, and other damages, and asks for an amount that will cover costs and attorneys’ fees, plus “other and further relief as this court deems just and equitable.”
Hefner pleaded not guilty in April to five counts of sexual assault, four counts of distributing nude images without consent, and one count of criminal lewdness.
Prosecutors allege Hefner engaged in a pattern of assault and misconduct over multiple years.
They detailed the alleged acts in vivid terms — saying Hefner groped two men against their will, kissed another “aggressively on the lips without his consent,” and boastfully showed nude photos of a fourth man who said he had never agreed to have the pictures taken.
According to the lawsuit, the fourth victim was an elected official.
Attorney General Maura T. Healey’s office filed a motion last week in Suffolk Superior Court seeking a court order to obtain interviews conducted by the firm Hogan Lovells US LLP as it compiled its report on Rosenberg.