Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi on Friday said her “heart breaks” for the Senate staffer who in a sworn statement said Sen. Jack Latvala groped her private body parts and sexually harassed her for years, and called for legislation to protect sexual harassment victims.
“I was astonished to learn that one of the victims of the recent allegations in Tallahassee is a woman who I’ve known and respected for years,” Bondi said in a statement.
Rachel Perrin Rogers, a legislative aide to Republican Sen. Wilton Simpson, went public with her accusations against Latvala this week saying she was tired of him lying about her intentions and those of her husband, Brian Hughes, a political consultant.
“My heart breaks for her. We must respect the investigation by the Florida Senate and the privacy of all parties involved,” Bondi said.
Bondi encouraged women who have experienced sexual harassment to come forward, and while she did not give specifics, she said she reached out to House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, who is handling the complaint against Latvala, to preserve a spot for legislation that would “provide protections to victims of sexual harassment complaints.”
Corcoran, who is mulling a run for governor, has called for Latvala to resign. Bondi said he was supportive of a law that would protect all women working in state government.
“It is remarkable what women can do when we all stand together,” she added.
The sex scandal rocking the Republican gubernatorial candidate intensified this week after Perrin Rogers went public and Latvala’s legal team released dozens of text message exchanges in counter defense that showed a cordial working relationship between the two. The complaint detailing the sexual harassment allegations was also made public this week.
Soon after that happened, Gov. Rick Scott said the powerful senator — who is running to succeed him –was a “distraction” in the Legislature.
Latvala slammed Scott for his comment hours later, taking to Twitter to say Scott’s “theft of billions in taxpayers” was also a distraction, referring to his defense in a Medicare fraud case against Scott’s former hospital company.
“I’m sure HCA stockholders thought your efforts to defend yourself in theft of billions from taxpayers was a distraction but you had a right to defend yourself! I have that same right!” he tweeted.
@FLGovScott I'm sure HCA stockholders thought your efforts to defend yourself in theft of billions from taxpayers was a distraction but you had a right to defend yourself! I have that same right!
— Jack Latvala (@JackLatvala) December 1, 2017
The Senate continues to investigate the allegations of six women, one of them being Perrin Rogers, brought to light by a POLITICO Florida report. There is a separate Senate probe sparked by the complaint Perrin Rogers filed with the Senate Rules Committee.
Latvala’s defense team said there is a sense of “urgency” to wrap up the investigation and that it could be resolved as soon as next week.