Slama lawsuit moves forward with new groping details; Herbster denies

By: - May 16, 2022 5:59 pm
State Sen. Julie Slama

State Sen. Julie Slama of Sterling debates on the floor of the Nebraska Legislature. (Courtesy of Unicameral Information Office)

Editor’s note: This story contains a graphic description of an alleged sexual groping incident. 

LINCOLN — State Sen. Julie Slama’s lawyers made clear in a new filing Monday that her counter-lawsuit alleging sexual battery by Charles Herbster will continue after Herbster’s loss last week in the GOP primary race for governor.

Slama’s lawyers asked that Herbster’s defamation lawsuit against her be thrown out as being “frivolous” and in “bad faith.” They added details to Slama’s counter-suit, including a new claim alleging that Herbster’s political defense cast Slama in a false light.

The new filing said: “Herbster and his counsel know, or should know, that Senator Slama’s statements in question are true or substantially true.” 

Slama, the filing said, is still coping with the mental and emotional toll of being groped and with how Herbster responded to her allegation in April. The filing said she is dealing with anxiety, depression and feared loss of reputation. 

Herbster on Monday repeated his denial of wrongdoing. He has alleged he is the victim of a political conspiracy involving his former opponent, GOP gubernatorial nominee Jim Pillen, and Gov. Pete Ricketts. Pillen and Ricketts have denied being part of any conspiracy.

Nebraska gubernatorial candidate Charles Herbster speaks during a news conference April 20, defending himself from allegations he groped eight women. He has denied wrongdoing. (Screenshot from news conference)

Slama’s new filing provides the most detailed account yet of what she said Herbster did to her during the Elephant Remembers fundraising dinner in Omaha in 2019. It said Slama, then 22, was walking to her table at the dinner. 

“Senator Slama felt a hand reach up her dress from behind and first touch and grope her genital area on the outside of her underwear,” the filing said. “She then felt the hand move up and grope and squeeze her right bare buttocks. 

“As she turned, startled by the contact, she saw Charles Herbster as he was removing his hand from under her dress. Herbster did not make eye contact with Senator Slama but she observed a smirk on his face as he walked away.”

The document said Slama had never met Herbster until that night, though she knew who he was since he was a major Republican donor. The filing said she told at least two people immediately afterward what had happened.  

The filing alleges that Slama and “several other” people saw Herbster grab another woman’s buttocks at the event. The Nebraska Examiner reported April 30 that Elizabeth Todsen came forward on the record to confirm what she had earlier told the Examiner anonymously — that Herbster had groped her at the Elephant Remembers dinner.

Slama’s filing mentions interviews that Herbster and his national campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, gave about Slama’s allegations on Steve Bannon’s podcast. Conway and Bannon were both advisers to former President Donald Trump.

Herbster told Bannon that Slama’s allegations were made up and that Ricketts and Nebraska’s GOP establishment were after him. Conway told Bannon that she and Ricketts had talked about Slama months earlier and that Slama was politically obsessed with Herbster. 

“Senator Slama was shocked, mortified, and traumatized by Herbster’s actions,” the filing said. “Senator Slama was also frightened of retribution.”

Herb vs Slama

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Aaron Sanderford
Aaron Sanderford

Political reporter Aaron Sanderford has tackled various news roles in his 20-plus year career. He has reported on politics, crime, courts, government and business for the Omaha World-Herald and Lincoln Journal-Star. He also spent several years as an assignment editor and worked two stints as an editorial writer. From 2005 to 2007, he served as communications director for then-Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman. Aaron most recently was the lead investigative reporter for KMTV 3 in Omaha, focusing on holding public officials accountable. His work has received awards from the Associated Press, Great Plains Journalism and more.

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