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Conyers accuser Marion Brown says congressman wanted me as ‘his side piece’

 

Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) during a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, July 26, 2017. Conyers, the House’s longest-serving lawmaker, is stepping aside as the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee amid an investigation into allegations that he sexually harassed former aides. (Gabriella Demczuk/The New York Times)

 

Marion Brown, a former staff member whose accusations have sparked the scandal surrounding embattled U.S. Rep. John Conyers, described in an interview Thursday how the Detroit congressman allegedly created a hostile work environment for his female staffers and, at times, pressed her for sexual favors, particularly when his wife was away.

“He owns you when you are there,” Brown said in the interview with Stephen Henderson, host of “Detroit Today” on WDET-FM (101.9) and editorial page editor at the Free Press.

“At one time, it was said amongst staff members — females — that he thinks that his initials, J.C., stand for Jesus Christ,” she said.

Brown said Conyers would “invite me to a hotel in the guise of business, and then it turns into something else. … And this happened too often. And that was throughout.”

She said the sexual advances intensified whenever his wife, Monica Conyers, was out of town.

“He seemed to have taken on the attitude that ‘I’m gonna go for it now. My wife’s away, and I have these needs and I’m going to call you up in the middle of the night,’ ” Brown said.

She also repeated her claim that she was fired from Conyers’ Detroit office in 2014 after years of refusing his sexual advances. She started working for the congressman in 2003.

“I know it’s because he decided that he wanted to stop the hunting game,” Brown said. “He had no more interest in trying to persuade and seduce me into, you know, sex — or being his side piece.”

Brown’s interview, set to air in its entirety at 9 a.m. Friday on WDET-FM, follows her TV appearance earlier Thursday on the “Today” show.

During that interview, she shared details of Conyers’ alleged sexual advances toward her, including how Conyers in 2005 allegedly invited her to his Chicago hotel room and, while in his underwear, pointed to his genitals and asked her to “touch it.”

Brown is speaking out despite a nondisclosure agreement that was part of a 2015 settlement she reached with Conyers. The settlement, more than $27,000, was paid from Conyers’ office funds.

Conyers, the longest-serving active member of Congress, has emphatically denied the accusations that he made advances and improper remarks, as well as groping and rubbing former female staffers.

Conyers, 88, checked into an undisclosed metro Detroit hospital Thursday following complaints of dizziness and shortness of breath. Meanwhile, more fellow Democrats have been calling for him to resign from office.

Brown told Henderson that Conyers enjoyed creating a hostile work environment for the mostly female staff in his Detroit office, with the women competing against each other. They were expected to work long hours and holidays, she said, and help Conyers with personal tasks, such as laundry or attending meetings with his children’s schoolteachers.

For Brown, these requests were very personal, she said.

Conyers flew back to Detroit from Washington, D.C., on Tuesday night amid multiple sexual harassment allegations. His lawyer said the media attention forced him back to Detroit to look after his family.

The Free Press, through pay records, previously identified Brown as being the complainant in a wrongful dismissal complaint, although she declined at that time to speak on the record.

She said she was shocked and hurt once Conyers fired her. He had earlier denied office rumors that she was about to get sacked.

“He assured me, ‘That is not true. Don’t you listen to that, baby, I’m going to take care of you,’ ” Brown said.

Later, Brown said she began looking for an attorney to represent her in a possible lawsuit against Conyers’ office. But few wanted to take a case against a powerful congressman.

“Everybody I went to made excuses,” she said “The first attorney I went to was a very well-known accomplished attorney, and she told me ‘I think you have a case, and that’s terrible, but I don’t handle those kinds of sexual harassment.’ “

That attorney referred her to another female attorney, who also declined the case, Brown said. And that pattern continued several more times.

“I felt like I was blackballed,” she said.

Brown said she wants Conyers to apologize to her and “acknowledge some of the things he’s done.”

“My hope is that he will reflect on all these things that are happening and take some responsibility, and figure out a way that he’s going to live with himself from this point on,” she said. “I don’t hate him. … I just feel that he has some issues in his personal behavior that are unacceptable, and he needs to come to reason with that.”

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