Galveston, Texas (CBS HOUSTON) — A Galveston County jury has awarded more than half-million dollars in damages and back-pay to a former deputy constable who was allegedly sexually harassed by former boss and Precinct 7 Constable Pam Matranga in 2011.
Former Texas deputy constable James P. Gist, 55, was awarded $567,000 by a jury due to sexual harassment claims that range from unwanted lap dances to forced “motorboats,” in which she allegedly placed her shirt over his head and held his face against her breasts, KPRC-TV reports.
Gist alleges that his then-boss, Matranga, had been sexually harassing him for months, including instances of “grabbing her breasts, and saying, ‘Here, hold these,’” Gist told KPRC-TV. Gist accused Matranga of repeated sexually suggestive comments and acts that he said caused him “humiliation” and “embarrassing” moments he’d never experienced in his nearly 30-year law enforcement career.
“She walked up behind me and pulls her shirt over my head and kinda held me in a head lock under her shirt,” said Gist. “I didn’t reciprocate in any way and, if anything, I backed away.”
The 2005 film “Wedding Crashers” popularized the term “motorboating” in a rant by actor Vince Vaughn that is often referenced in viral video clips depicting the sexual act.
In testimony that was “rife with sexual content,” Matranga admitted that she had joked with Gist about him attending “chunky chick night” at a local strip club, the Houston Chronicle reports.
Gist alleged that Matranga repeatedly offered him oral sex at work, causing him to place a hidden camera on his desk to catch her in the act. However, Matranga reportedly found the video, deleted it, and then reported Gist to the District Attorney for wiretapping.
Gist said that she demoted him from sergeant to deputy and later forced him to resign.
“What they are investigating him for isn’t a crime because it’s perfectly legal for one party to record a conversation between two parties,” Gist’s attorney Thomas Nixon told KPRC.
In a statement, Matranga denied the allegations.
“I never sexually harassed anyone. I would never intentionally hurt anyone. I have never tampered with evidence in my whole nineteen years with the county,” she said.
Matranga said the verdict was unfair, and that Gist filed the lawsuit because she had refused to give him a promotion.
“It was a circus for the last two years,” she told the Chronicle of the lawsuit, which was filed just days before the 2012 election in which she was defeated after eight years as constable. “It was a horrible, horrible time. Mr. Gist said he would make my life a living hell, and that’s what he did.”
But the jury unanimously sided with Gist, and his attorney, Anthony Griffin, said the jury would not absolve Matranga simply because of her gender.
“They rejected this whole notion that you get away with it because you are a female,” Griffin told the Chronicle. Nixon said the jury awarded his client $200,000 more than he originally had sought.