Acosta releases texts to combat harassment allegations

Danta Acosta holds up copies of the text messages and the original device he used to send the messages during a press conference at GOP headquarters in Valencia in October. The text messages contain alleged sexual harrassment that Acosta denies. Katharine Lotze/Signal

Saying he is a victim of “dirty politics,” Dante Acosta, the Republican candidate for Assembly in the 38th District, fired another round of defense volleys Thursday, and distributed a package of text exchanges he called exculpatory, two days after he was hit with allegations of sexual harassment.

“I stand before you today to tell you that these accusations are not true,” Acosta said at a news conference outside GOP headquarters in Santa Clarita, surrounded by 16 supporters, 11 of them women.

“This is dirty politics and it is disgusting and hurtful. And not just to me, my wife and my children, but to every woman who is actually dealing with sexual harassment, a real and intolerable reality in society.”

Acosta’s news conference came a day after he issued a lengthy news release defending himself against leaked allegations from a woman claiming he had made unwanted advances against her and was inappropriate in texts and over the phone.

Acosta, currently the Mayor Pro Tem of Santa Clarita, handed out printed copies of a long text history between himself and the accuser, and said, “Most of these exchanges were initiated by her … and as you will see for yourself, there is not one single text among them that in any way crosses the line. Not one.”

The GOP candidate said the “dirty politics” element of the tale involves the accuser’s political ties.

The woman, he said, is a Republican operative who had pushed him to run for state-wide office, then lobbied for Acosta to hire her to run his campaign before he hired another team and the woman went to work for Acosta primary opponent Jarrod DeGonia.

The woman, who has not returned phone calls from The Signal but did go on the record elsewhere, is Jennifer Van Laar. She was also identified in the texts released by Acosta.

“This woman, who went on to work for one of my opponents in the primary election, first made the allegations four days before the (June 6) primary,” Acosta said – referring to a letter Van Laar wrote to a third party that was leaked on Tuesday.

“She has now resurfaced, just 13 days before the general election.”

The June 2 accusations Acosta referenced concern a leaked letter from Van Laar to Vanessa Wilk, an acquaintance and the wife of Assemblyman and state Senate candidate Scott Wilk. In that email, Van Laar told Vanessa Wilk that Acosta had allegedly made unwanted advances.

Vanessa Wilk told The Signal on Wednesday that Van Laar, who had also called Vanessa Wilk a few days earlier alleging Acosta’s actions, was planning to go public with the allegations. But Vanessa Wilk said she urged Van Laar, for the sake of Acosta’s wife, to go through channels rather than the media.

“I don’t know if it’s true, but it was suspect to me, the timing of the phone call. She (was attached to DeGonia’s campaign), and she has this damning statement,’’ Vanessa Wilk said Wednesday.

Acosta, on Thursday, also specifically denied an allegation that he made an inappropriate phone call to Van Laar on March 14, when he was in Sacramento – a call he said was made in the presence of Scott and Vanessa Wilk, and which was entirely appropriate.

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