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DA staffer who was fired for ‘panties’ email was sued for sexual harassment in 2018

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A crime victim alleged in an unsuccessful lawsuit that Jovan Thomas took advantage of her sexually in the aftermath of gang violence targeting her and her son. | Source: Isaac Ceja/The Standard

A San Francisco District Attorney's Office staffer who was fired after sending an email to DA Brooke Jenkins asking about her “panties” was previously sued for allegedly sexually harassing a victim he had been assigned to support, The Standard has learned.

In a complaint filed in San Francisco County Superior Court in September 2018, the plaintiff, identified in court documents as Jane Doe, accused victim advocate Jovan Thomas of taking advantage of her sexually in the aftermath of a robbery and gang violence targeting her and her son. The City of San Francisco was also named as a defendant in the complaint.

The woman claimed that Thomas "stroked" her butt after meeting at the Bayview Victim Services office to discuss her case and then later asked her to come to his home, where they drank and had sex. She claimed that he repeatedly texted and called her, adding that she worried that if she turned down his sexual advances, she wouldn't get victim's services, according to the complaint.

Jane Doe agreed to drop Thomas as a defendant in the case in September 2019, leaving the suit just against his employer. A trial date had been set for June 2020 but was repeatedly pushed back, according to court records. In October 2021, the city filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that the government was not liable for Thomas's alleged conduct because it "was not in the course and scope of his employment." A judge agreed and granted that motion in December 2021, ending the case.

Thomas Fired Over 'Panties' Email

On Friday, images of leaked emails surfaced on X showing Thomas asking District Attorney Brooke Jenkins, “What color panties you have on.” The message was emailed to Jenkins and the rest of the office. In a subsequent email, Thomas apologized for the message, saying it had been sent as a joke.

Randy Quezada, a spokesperson for the DA's Office, said in a statement provided to The Standard on Friday afternoon that Thomas had been fired as a result of the emails.

“To be clear, there is no relationship between the District Attorney and the individual who sent this email," Quezada said. "This misogynistic behavior violates the office’s code of conduct and this individual has been terminated. The District Attorney’s Office is committed to maintaining a professional office environment where all staff members are treated with dignity and respect and not subject to harassment or a hostile work environment.”

The Standard has been unable to reach Thomas after calling several listed numbers for him and emailing his work email address.

Quezada declined to comment Saturday on the 2018 complaint filed against Thomas and the city and referred questions to the City Attorney’s Office, which represented the city in the lawsuit. A spokesperson for the City Attorney’s Office did not immediately respond to The Standard’s request for comment on Saturday.

The documents in the 2018 case erroneously spell Thomas’s first name as Jovian and state that he worked out of the Bayview office. His email signature in the leaked messages lists his position as a victim advocate in Bayview.

RELATED: Staffer Fired After Emailing DA Brooke Jenkins About ‘Panties’

According to court records, the woman alleged that, after meeting with her in May 2017 to talk about how she and her son had recently been robbed and threatened, Thomas invited her over to his Oakland home, where they drank alcohol, watched television and had sex.

She testified that she had no understanding of the purpose of the meeting but thought that it was a follow-up to obtaining victims services.

‘A Lot of Pressure’

“That was very much a lot of pressure to continue this sexual engagement over and over with him, under the assumption that this was a part of me receiving services,” she said during a deposition cited in her filing to oppose the city's motion for summary judgment. “And that if I saw him and I performed well, that I would be given support and him advocating for whatever services that I would be eligible for through the program.”

The plaintiff said she later asked Thomas to assign her to another victim advocate due to concerns that if she turned down his sexual advances, she wouldn’t receive services, according to the documents. But he refused and assured her he could handle her case, according to the complaint.

During multiple attempts to get Thomas to transfer her to another advocate, the plaintiff said Thomas used sensitive information about her case to belittle her, sent flowers to her home and drove by her residence—a detail about which she had never given him information.

“I had never provided any address or contact information for myself, other than on this application,” she said during a deposition, referring to the document she filled out for victim services. “So I was under the impression either you followed me to my house or you got my information off of the application. ... That was scary for me.”

The plaintiff was transferred to another advocate by the end of June 2017, according to court records. An attorney for the plaintiff did not respond to The Standard’s requests for comment Saturday.

Joel Umanzor can be reached at jumanzor@sfstandard.com