Woman who accused Flagler-Mitchell of sexual harassment plans to sue
Victoria E. Freile, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle Published 9:47 a.m. ET Nov. 23, 2021 The young Rochester woman who earlier this year accused a Monroe County legislator of sexually harassing her following Rochester's largest mass shooting in recent memory intends to file a lawsuit seeking $1 million in damages. Lakaya Sinclair was 19 when she hosted a party at her family's Pennsylvania Avenue home in September 2020. Gunfire erupted at a backyard house party with more than 100 people present. Two young adults were killed and 14 others were injured. Here's more about the events that preceded the lawsuit: What happened at the party? Sinclair was 19 when she hosted a party at her family's home last fall, when gunfire erupted on Pennsylvania Avenue. Two people were killed and 14 others were injured just after 1 a.m. on Sept. 19, 2020. The mass shooting remains under investigation. More than 14 months after the incident, police have not yet filed any charges in connection with the mass shooting. How did Ernest Flager-Mitchell get involved? Ernest Flagler Mitchell, a Monroe County legislator who at the time represented the district where the Pennsylvania Avenue shooting occurred, was among the elected officials who came to the scene offering to help Sinclair. Instead, she said, he used the traumatic event to befriend her, gain her trust and exploit her vulnerability — culminating, she says, with him sending her an unsolicited picture of a man's genitalia in November 2020. More: Woman says Flagler-Mitchell sent explicit photo after comforting her over mass shooting The inappropriate picture Flagler-Mitchell, a church elder and a married father of eight, does not deny he sent the photo. He claimed it was intended for his wife, who he said was out of town. The two were texting at the same time Sinclair messaged him, he said, and the two threads got mixed up. He said he was embarrassed, apologized, explained himself and thought the matter was settled. Investigations by the Monroe County Board of Ethics and District Attorney's office, however, turned up evidence that he had done the same thing to other young women. In other cases, women alleged he had paid their bills or offered help in exchange for sex. He was pressured to resign his post, but refused to do so. In June, Flagler-Mitchell lost his bid for re-election in a Democratic primary election. That same month, A Monroe County ethics board determined that Flagler-Mitchell violated an ethics code by texting the explicit photo to Sinclair and that his claim that he intended to send the explicit photo to his wife "lacks credibility." The claims The two had kept in touch after the shooting incident, and Flagler-Mitchell offered to help the aspiring photographer with networking. But his messages turned more personal, began coming in late at night, at one point "consisted only of three heart emojis, with no text," according to the ethics board report. They were messaging about a possible job opportunity for Sinclair when he told her he was still in bed, doing "self love," and later sent the explicit photo, the report states. That and other messages were quickly deleted after she responded "this is weird." In a news release, Sinclair said of the incident, “I was a teenager in an awful situation. An elected official, with a duty to serve the community, came to me pretending to care and implying that he wanted to help me. Instead, he tried to manipulate me and take advantage of me. And even after his behavior became clear, and widely documented, none of the arms of justice seemed to care." The lawsuit According to the release, Sinclair is bringing a $1 million-dollar lawsuit, for damages to her mental well-being and reputation and will file it against Flagler-Mitchell and Monroe County, as his employer. "This is a message and a demand for justice — justice that those in power have failed to provide. The system was meant to help and protect Ms. Sinclair — not Flagler-Mitchell. His actions cannot go unpunished," the news release read. Representing Sinclair are Arthur Schwartz and Nate McMurray of Advocates for Justice, a civil rights law firm focused on workplace, community, economic, and environmental justice. “She deserves justice," McMurray said. "We are here because neither the legislature that Mr. Flagler-Mitchell was a part of or the criminal justice system was able to deliver her justice, despite clearly identifying a pattern of misbehavior by Mr. Flagler-Mitchell." "Ms. Sinclair is a young person starting out her life, and this episode has a had a traumatic effect on her," he said. "We are proud to represent her, and hopeful that this case will not only bring her justice but prevent any local leader from abusing their power to exploit others as Mr. Flagler-Mitchell has gotten away with for so long.” The latest McMurray announced a news conference to be held at 11 a.m. Tuesday at the Monroe County Office Building, 39 W. Main St., Rochester. Contact Victoria Freile at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @vfreile and Instagram @vfreile. This coverage is only possible with support from our readers.