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Accuser Gives Graphic Details at Holden Trial : Lawsuit: Former receptionist Marlee M. Beyda testifies that councilman repeatedly attempted to force her into sexual relations. She recalls eight visits to the lawmaker's Marina del Rey apartment.

November 01, 1995|JODI WILGOREN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Offering the most graphic descriptions and serious allegations yet, a former receptionist who is suing Los Angeles City Councilman Nate Holden for sexual harassment and discrimination spent all day Tuesday on the witness stand, testifying that her boss repeatedly attempted to force her into sexual relations.

The receptionist, Marlee M. Beyda, at times spoke barely above a whisper as she detailed eight after-hours visits to Holden's apartment in Marina del Rey.

On one occasion, she testified, Holden tried to force oral sex. Another time, the 66-year-old lawmaker took off her stockings and underwear and attempted intercourse, she said, adding that this visit, like several others, ended with Holden reaching orgasm by rubbing against her body.

"I remember thinking, 'If this man masturbates, I get to go home,' " the 31-year-old former art student recalled of a visit in September, 1991. Saying she was afraid Holden would come after her and that she did not feel free to leave, Beyda added: "There's nowhere to run. You have to go to work the next day."

Holden's attorney, Skip Miller, had only half an hour to cross-examine Beyda on Tuesday after four hours of her direct examination, but said he planned to keep her on the stand for several more days. Outside of court, Miller said of her testimony: "It's a total fabrication. F-A-B-R-I-C-A-T-I-O-N."

Holden has previously testified that he had no sexual contact with Beyda and made no sexual comments toward her. On Tuesday, he called her stories "bizarre."

"We have the facts and the truth on our side. I feel sorry for her," Holden said of his accuser. "You think it pains me? It doesn't pain me. Just the opposite. I think, 'What's that girl talking about?' Strange woman. . . . I have just one question: If those things happened to you, would you go back?"

Beyda's attorney, Jack O'Donnell, asked just that question at the close of his lengthy examination.

"Because I believed there was something I could do to make Councilman Holden leave me alone," Beyda explained. "I wanted to see him as I originally saw him, which was as a man of his word. I didn't want to believe what was taking place."

Beyda, who met Holden while she was a waitress at the Bel Age hotel and then worked in his district office for about a year, is one of three women who have formally accused the councilman of sexual harassment. One woman's complaint was dismissed by a state agency, and the third filed a lawsuit that is scheduled for trial in Orange County in January.

During her first full day on the stand, Beyda testified that Holden gave her $150 to buy a new dress for a dinner they were attending, brought her an Armani sweat suit from Korea and offered to put her in his will. She said he once invited her to share a shower, then entertained her wearing only a robe, and on another occasion asked her to buy "female condoms" before coming over to his apartment.

In discussing whether staff members should drive Holden to community events, the councilman told her: "I'd take you, but why should I? You don't put out," Beyda testified.

"Councilman Holden said my being in his apartment was a secret and I should tell no one," she recalled. "I said . . . 'If you don't touch me there's no need to keep it a secret.' "

But time after time, she testified, Holden would beg her to lay beside him on the bed, pull her next to him on the white leather couch, or block her exit in the doorway.

"I said, 'You stay over there and I'm going to stay over here. Please don't touch me,' " she remembered of one early visit. "He said, 'What's wrong with you? What's wrong with you? Why do you always say no?' "

Beyda also said Holden harassed her in the office, once running his hand down her back and thigh, another time trying to kiss her, and a third time laughing after a staff member referred to Beyda as the councilman's girlfriend. She also testified that she saw Holden give other women massages at work, and that he and male employees had "butt contests" comparing the anatomy of the female staff.

When she complained to district supervisor Geneva Cox, Beyda testified that she was told: "That's just the way he is."

Beyda's testimony Tuesday also provided the first detailed allegations against Holden staff members Louis White and Ira Massey, and former employee Cruz Nunez, all three of whom are named as defendants in the lawsuit.

The plaintiff said White repeatedly asked her out on dates, called her "darling" instead of by name, and once commented about her thighs. Massey belittled her and generally perceived women "as stupid," she testified. Nunez called her "mi amor," repeatedly gave her unwanted kisses, and constantly made lewd comments about her body and those of other women, Beyda said.

During Miller's brief cross-examination before court closed Tuesday, Beyda acknowledged that she had never actually had sex or performed oral sex on Holden, and said she "did not seek or want a relationship with Councilman Holden."

After the day's session, Miller noted that Beyda's version of events is "diametrically opposed" to Holden's, but said that even if what she said were true, the alleged incidents do not fit the legal definition of sexual harassment.

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