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Judge finds sexual assault claim against Colorado lawmaker “incredible,” casting doubt on allegations

For more than a year, state Rep. Leslie Herod has faced public allegations of sexual assault made by another woman who is active in Colorado Democratic politics, including some leveled in social media posts when Herod was running for Denver mayor.

Now Herod says she feels vindicated after a Denver County Court judge last month cast doubt on the accuser’s allegations, including the alleged assault a few years ago, by finding her testimony was not credible. The judge ruled against the accuser during a hearing called after she requested a protection order against Herod, according to a court transcript provided to The Denver Post, denying accuser Sheena Kadi’s request for a permanent order. Instead, the judge granted a protection order to the state lawmaker.

Two half-day hearings in February culminated in Judge Clarisse Gonzales declaring that the evidence of threats or violence presented against Herod were unsubstantiated. In her ruling from the bench on Feb. 12, Gonzales said the accuser’s testimony was “incredible on 100 percent of the facts that were asserted.”

“I’m grateful that there was a process to have my voice be heard,” Herod told The Post in an interview. “It just never should have gotten to this point.”

Herod’s attorney, Harvey Steinberg, provided a copy of the 12-page transcript, which is an excerpt from the proceedings that covers only the judge’s detailed oral ruling.

Kadi is a spokesperson for the Colorado Treasurer’s Office and is the vice chair of public relations and marketing for the Colorado Democratic Party. She previously frequented the Colorado State Capitol as deputy director of One Colorado, an advocacy organization for LGBTQ+ people.

Reached Sunday, Kadi declined to comment about the ruling. She has also previously declined to comment to The Post about the allegations she posted on social media.

While The Post typically does not identify alleged victims of sexual assault, it is naming Kadi because she has made the accusations against Herod so publicly.

Colorado Democratic Party Chair Shad Murib said Monday that the judge’s findings were striking and called on Kadi to resign from her party post. She was elected to the position last year by the party’s central committee.

“The court’s ruling couldn’t be clearer,” Murib said in a statement. “Ms. Kadi’s regular attacks against Democrats (are) a violation of the Colorado Democratic Party’s code of conduct, and (are) made worse by the fact that the court discredited this specific and serious attack against Rep. Herod.”

The protection order requires that Kadi make no contact with Herod or publish any social media posts to or about the lawmaker. It also requires that Kadi remain 100 yards away from Herod at all times, except when Kadi is at the Capitol for work purposes or at events approved by the treasurer or by the party. In those work instances, Kadi must remain at least 25 feet away from Herod, according to the record.

As Kadi had aired her accusations, going back to early 2023, she didn’t name Herod in all her social media posts or give details on the conduct she was alleging. But the connection to Herod was often clear.

And in a since-deleted statement posted by Kadi in December on X, formerly known as Twitter, she named Herod, alleging the lawmaker had sexually assaulted her and wouldn’t “own up” to it. She also said she’d been doxxed, threatened and harassed since coming forward.

Herod said she first heard about the allegations against her in June 2022, and that Kadi harassed her by taking pictures and videos of her at events and calling her a sexual abuser. Herod said her colleagues in the legislature have tried to use the allegations against her by citing them at the Capitol.

Herod herself addressed the allegations publicly multiple times in recent weeks.

When lawmakers were debating a bill that would protect sexual assault victims from shaming in court, Herod zeroed in on a provision related to the use of a prior history of false reports against a victim during a floor speech, referencing Kadi’s accusations against her.

She said it was important to allow certain information in court that would help a person defending themselves.

Herod again asked pointed questions in a committee hearing earlier this month related to workplace harassment investigations. She confirmed to The Post that she found out an investigation launched last year against her was based on a complaint filed by Kadi. Herod said the investigation was later dropped and she has not been able to obtain the records related to it. She also had to pay for legal counsel out of pocket, she said.

Herod said false assault allegations are common against Black people in elected positions, but she didn’t expect it to happen to her.

“It was extremely painful to see,” she said in the interview. “It was extremely shocking to see those types of allegations brought against me. It is harmful because, quite frankly, I’ve always fought for people, for women, and to believe women and folks who have been sexually assaulted or harassed. And I would never even put myself in a situation where that could be an issue — and I didn’t.”

She also called for an end to false narratives that queer elected officials are abusers.

Kadi’s initial request in the Denver court for a restraining order against Herod stemmed from an incident on Jan. 10, in which Kadi said Herod “physically intimidated me by entering my personal space in my place of work, in a way that made me scared for my physical safety.” She also said she was assaulted in Herod’s home on Dec. 18, 2019, and listed other dates of incidents that she said included violence or threats. She alleged that Herod flirted with her and made advances toward her.

During her testimony in February, according to the judge’s ruling, Kadi said she went to Herod’s home on the night of the alleged assault and that Herod pushed herself onto Kadi.

Herod denied all of the claims against her and said that the night Kadi went to her home was actually in June 2020, after Kadi had left One Colorado and was no longer engaging in legislative advocacy at the Capitol. She said Kadi had been pursuing her.

And Herod said she and Kadi “made out one time,” but she said she indicated to Kadi that she wasn’t interested in anything else.

The court also reviewed text messages that the judge said showed that Kadi was attempting to see Herod again romantically after the alleged sexual assault. Two witnesses also testified that they had heard Kadi refer to the incident only as a “making out session” or that she had “hooked up” with Herod in a way that she was happy about, according to the transcript.

“Ms. Kadi’s testimony in this case is found to be incredible by this Court, not only because the nature of her testimony just simply defies common sense in so many instances, but also because the other exhibits, directly the reliable evidence proves this to be simply not consistent,” Gonzales said in the transcript.

As for the other incidents Kadi had listed, the judge said that, “even assuming what you said is true … most of these are nothing more than somebody perhaps just ignoring you … or maybe, at most, being a little curt.”

Herod said she is considering filing a defamation lawsuit against Kadi in the matter.

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