Sari Horwitz reports in WashPost:
“Some of the most troubling allegations, Horowitz said, have been in the Justice Department’s Civil Division. His office examined the handling of those allegations, which occurred several years ago, after receiving a complaint that the Office of Immigration Litigation had not properly disciplined an attorney who had committed sexual misconduct.
In his report, the IG wrote that a senior, supervisory attorney in the Office of Immigration Litigation, Victor Lawrence, groped the breasts and buttocks of two female trial attorneys and made sexually charged comments to them at an office happy hour. Lawrence, whose name was redacted from the report but who was identified by people familiar with the incidents, had previously received a reprimand and diminution of title for sending emails of a sexual nature to co-workers.
After the second incident with the two women, Lawrence began a scheduled detail to another division “apparently with no notice to the component of the misconduct allegations,” the inspector general wrote. After the groping allegations were investigated, Lawrence received a written reprimand for inappropriate touching, a further change in title and relief from supervisory duties.
The IG noted that Lawrence received no suspension or loss in pay or grade. The deciding official in the Civil Division said a suspension “would unnecessarily deprive the government of [his] litigating services,” according to the report.
“I was terrified I was going to get in the elevator and he would be in there,” said a woman who was involved in one of the groping incidents.” The Post does not identify victims of sexual misconduct without their agreement.
[What makes some men sexual harassers? Science tries to explain the creeps of the world]
Horowitz’s report also concluded that this case “presented potential criminal assault violations, yet we found no evidence in the case file that a referral was made to the [Inspector General] or any other law enforcement entity.”
Another senior attorney in the Office of Immigration Litigation admitted stalking a female attorney by hacking into her personal email account and conducting “a catfishing operation,” by creating a “fictitious online profile to entice her,” the inspector general found.
The attorney, Theodore Atkinson, who received a written reprimand and reduction in title, was restricted for one year from entering the building in which the attorney he had stalked worked and was moved to a different section in the Civil Division. But he received no suspension or loss in pay or grade.
The IG said this case also “raises potential criminal concerns, yet we found no evidence that a referral was made to [the Inspector General] or any other law enforcement entity,” the report said. Atkinson’s name was redacted from the report, but he was also identified by people familiar with the matter.
Atkinson was recently given a “Special Commendation Award from the Civil Division.”
Neither Atkinson or Lawrence responded to requests for comment.
A third attorney, even after being counseled about inappropriate behavior toward female co-workers and interns, allegedly “peered” through high windows into the offices of two different women who had closed their doors while they were pumping breast milk, according to an IG report. The attorney caught peeping told his supervisor that it was “an honest mistake,” an explanation the supervisor accepted, the IG report said. The matter was not fully investigated, the inspector general found, and the attorney was verbally counseled. He is still working in the Office of Immigration Litigation. His alleged behavior became such an issue that some women at the Justice Department have taped wrapping paper over the windows outside their offices.
All three Civil Division attorneys received performance awards after their misconduct, the report said.
“I’m shocked and really disappointed,” said a female attorney with knowledge of the incidents who spoke on the condition of anonymity because she was not authorized to speak to a reporter. “They got free passes. They got awards. They got to continue with their careers. It sounds like nothing is going to be done.”
Justice spokesman Prior said the department “does not discuss specific employee disciplinary actions or comment on personnel actions or matters that may impact personal privacy.”
“That said, the department was very disappointed with the issues that occurred in the previous administration and strives for a workplace free of harassment and other misconduct for all of our 115,000 employees,” he said. “That is why the Civil Division has implemented additional safeguards and systems to ensure that all misconduct allegations are handled appropriately going forward.”
These problems largely predate Sessions. But, perhaps he needs to spend less time doing DHS’s job of immigration enforcement and more time straightening out the mess in his own Department.