Ugenti-Rita takes Shooter to court

Paulina Pineda//June 15, 2018

Ugenti-Rita takes Shooter to court

Paulina Pineda//June 15, 2018

Rep. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, R-Scottsdale and Rep. Don Shooter, R-Yuma. (AP Photos/Ross D. Franklin)
Rep. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, R-Scottsdale and Rep. Don Shooter, R-Yuma. (AP Photos/Ross D. Franklin)

Expelled lawmaker Don Shooter’s legal troubles aren’t over.

While today he celebrated Superior Court Judge Rosa Mroz’s ruling allowing him to remain on the Aug. 28 primary ballot for the state Senate in Legislative District 13, he’ll now have to defend himself against allegations of libel and slander made in a lawsuit filed by Rep. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, R-Scottsdale.

The complaint, filed Thursday in Maricopa County Superior Court, also accuses  Shooter of intentional infliction of emotional distress, battery and negligence.

It was Ugenti-Rita’s complaints of sexual harassment that led to Shooter’s eventual expulsion from the House of Representatives.

In the 12-page complaint, Ugenti-Rita’s attorney, Daniel Massey, alleged that almost immediately after the start of the 2011 legislative session, Shooter began making inappropriate and sexually suggestive comments toward Ugenti-Rita.

Comments included “Mmm, that’s a good looking skirt,” and “Michelle, you’re making it hard to concentrate,” the complaint states.

That behavior, Massey alleged, continued and “became more intense” as the session went on. He said Shooter would constantly comment on Ugenti-Rita’s appearance and clothing when he saw her.

“(Ugenti-Rita) did not encourage this behavior by defendant Shooter and in fact became very uncomfortable with this behavior which caused her to avoid attending certain meetings if she believed defendant Donald Shooter would be present,” Massey wrote.

Massey alleged that Shooter’s actions continued to escalate and despite Ugenti-Rita trying to distance herself from him, he wouldn’t stop. In late 2012, Massey wrote, Ugenti-Rita confronted Shooter about his behavior, “itemized the incidents of his inappropriate actions” and cut all ties between them.

Still, his behavior continued, he said.

Massey wrote that during a reception in December 2016, which was attended by members of the Legislature, Shooter pulled on a tie that held Ugenti-Rita’s dress together “causing it to come undone, and potentially exposing her to public embarrassment.”

“This violation … was an offensive touching and battery, and was humiliating and embarrassing,” he wrote.

Ugenti-Rita did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In November, Ugenti-Rita became the first woman to publicly name Shooter as one of the men who had harassed her during her time at the Legislature. Her allegations and those of other women who came forward after her led the House of Representatives to launch an investigation against Shooter.

Massey wrote in the complaint that Ugenti-Rita’s decision to come forward was inspired by the “MeToo” movement and the national spotlight on the issue of sexual harassment in the workplace.

Many of the allegations that were looked into during the course of the House’s investigation were included in the complaint.

Shooter was expelled on Feb. 1 following a 57-3 vote by colleagues after the investigation found that he had harassed several women, including Ugenti-Rita, and created a hostile work environment.

Following his expulsion, Shooter accused Ugenti-Rita of fabricating the allegations of sexual harassment in exchange for “dark money” from Gov. Doug Ducey’s Chief of Staff Kirk Adams. He also alleged that Ugenti-Rita had harassed a female staffer at the House.

Massey wrote that Shooter’s allegations are false and were made with reckless disregard.

“Shooter’s conduct was wanton, deliberate, overt, dishonest and oppressive, made with an evil mind and motive and in conscious disregard of the rights of the plaintiff,” he wrote.

Shooter said he looks forward to what kind of information the lawsuit will lead to discovering.

“Truth is a defense. I am thrilled by the opportunity her lawsuit has handed to me for discovery so I can finally gain access to the information documenting what the Capitol community already knows,” Shooter told the Arizona Capitol Times in a text.

Ugenti-Rita is seeking an unspecified amount for damages stemming from the four counts.