Pennsylvania State Sen. Daylin Leach on Wednesday sued The Inquirer and one of its reporters alleging defamation from stories describing claims of sexual misconduct against the Montgomery County Democrat.
In particular, the 23-page complaint filed in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court alleges that Angela Couloumbis, an Inquirer reporter based in Harrisburg, “conspired” with a woman to make public her claim that Leach sexually assaulted her in 1991, and that Couloumbis and the newspaper deliberately withheld crucial facts that were favorable to the senator.
In a statement, Couloumbis, a veteran state Capitol reporter, said, “The allegations are untrue.”
Gabriel Escobar, editor and vice president of The Inquirer, said in a statement, “We completely stand by our reporting and will not comment any further on this pending litigation.”
Leach, a state legislator since 2003, has disputed claims about his conduct or comments since late 2017, when an Inquirer article reported allegations from women on his legislative staff and campaigns who accused him of inappropriate touching and sexualized jokes.
Last month, an investigation of Leach commissioned by Senate Democrats concluded that Leach engaged in workplace humor that was at times “unquestionably sexual in nature” but that his conduct fell short of violating federal discrimination law. The report said none of the witnesses interviewed described Leach’s sexual humor as "directed at or toward any particular individual” but rather was generally about newsworthy events and political happenings.
The Democrats launched the investigation after an Allentown-area resident, Cara Taylor, circulated a private criminal complaint to legislators alleging that Leach had coerced her into performing oral sex when she was a teen and he was a lawyer representing her mother in an attempted-murder case nearly three decades ago.
According to the report, prepared for Senate Democrats by lawyers from the firm Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott LLC, investigators “made every effort to attempt to corroborate either Ms. Taylor’s or Sen. Leach’s version of events, we were unable to uncover any facts or information to permit us to believe one version of events over the other.”
After the report was released, Leach, now 58, said he hoped that it would end the turmoil since the first allegations surfaced.
Nonetheless, Senate Democratic leader Jay Costa renewed his call for Leach to resign. Other Senate Democrats, as well as Gov. Tom Wolf and the Montgomery County Democratic Party, also have said Leach should quit.
In his complaint against The Inquirer and Couloumbis, filed by attorney Joseph R. Podraza Jr., Leach is seeking at least $50,000 in damages.
A defamation suit filed by Leach against Taylor is pending.
Leach, who has had a reputation for feisty online comments, gained widespread notoriety with a tweet in February 2017 calling President Donald Trump “fascist, loofa-faced," and worse.