Catawba County District Attorney DA Jay Gaither lawsuit sexual - WBTV 3 News, Weather, Sports, and Traffic for Charlotte, NC

Former employee outlines claims of sexual advances by Catawba Co. DA

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CATAWBA COUNTY, NC (WBTV) -

A former Assistant District Attorney has filed a lawsuit against Catawba County District Attorney Jay Gaither claiming he made sexual advances towards her and discriminated against her.

In the lawsuit, filed Thursday afternoon in federal court, Whitney Nicole Shaffer claims Gaither made sexual advances towards her, sent her inappropriate text messages and often made her feel intimidated by the things he said to her.

Shaffer began working as an ADA in February 2013 and reported to Gaither.

According to the lawsuit, Shaffer claims she was told by a former employee that Gaither would only come to her satellite officer "once every couple of months," but once she started Gaither would stop by once or twice a week, often while she was alone in the office.

"During these unannounced visits, [Gaither] frequently appeared to be inebriated or otherwise impaired," the lawsuit states. "He engaged [Shaffer] in conversations which were inappropriate, which she found threatening and abusive."

At one point, Shaffer says Gaither talked about his training as a wrestler in school.

"He grabbed [Shaffer's] wrist and explained how important 'wrist control' was to overpowering an opponent," the lawsuit claims.

The lawsuit claims Gaither said his favorite television show was Vikings, because Vikings were "not afraid to kill for what they wanted."

Shaffer claims that Gaither treated her differently than her male counterparts and attempted to give her rules that were different, including to "not be seen socializing in Catawba County and that she was not that have lunch with anyone other than him."

At one point, according to the lawsuit, Gaither told Shaffer she couldn't tell anyone outside of the court system that she was an attorney.

According to the lawsuit, Gaither told Shaffer he was a "very powerful man" and not afraid to use his power "in favor of those who supported him and against those that crossed him or would not support him."

Shaffer claims Gaither had her enter dismissals in cases that she was not in charge of and she believed he was using his position to get favorable outcomes for friends and political allies.

Gaither told Shaffer he needed her cell phone number so that he could easily reach her since that didn't typically see one another before court, Shaffer claimed in the lawsuit.

In April 2013, Gaither began sending messages to her which were "very clearly not work related," the suit claims.

She claims that he would later take her phone from her and demand that she delete text messages from her phone. The lawsuit claims that she was scared of losing her job and did what he told her to do.

According to the lawsuit, Gaither insisted that Shaffer go to dinner with him on April 25 to discuss business away from others in the office. He also insisted that she ride to dinner with him.

"It quickly became apparent that he had different intentions," the lawsuit claims. "[Gaither] drank heavily during the meal, and made several inappropriate sexual comments to her, demanding that she tell him about her sexual history."

Gaither reportedly asked if "this would be a bad time to hit on [Shaffer]" and she reportedly told him that she didn't want to have a "non-business" relationship with him.

On the way home, according to the lawsuit, Gaither put his hand on Shaffer's thigh and "began to move his hand up her inner thigh" before she grabbed his hand to stop him.

That's when Shaffer says he stopped at a convenience store, bought a beer, opened it and drank it while driving her to his lake home, instead of back to her office.

When they got to the lake house, Gaither attempted to kiss Shaffer and force her to touch him and wanted to have a physical relationship with her, the lawsuit claims.

Shaffer says she was able to convince him to take her back to the office, but demanded to know if she was going to tell anyone about the incident. She told him that she wouldn't and planned to remain professional.

According to the lawsuit, Gaither came to Shaffer's office the next day and insisted that she take a run with him. He told her that it upset him to have to chase her and that she was "giving up a good opportunity" by refusing to have sex with him.

That weekend, Shaffer says Gaither continued making unwanted sexual advances towards her, via text message.

WEB EXTRA: Click here to read text message screen grabs that were filed in court, allegedly between Gaither and Shaffer (**WARNING: Material in the texts may not be appropriate for all readers**)

According to the lawsuit, on April 28 Gaither reportedly sent a text message that was meant for Shaffer to another ADA by mistake. The message referred to the night he took her to dinner and make to his lake home, Shaffer claims.

Shaffer says she told Gaither to pass the messages off as issues that she was having with another attorney in an effort to "avoid becoming the subject of office gossip."

The lawsuit points out a series of text messages allegedly sent by Gaither which references "his assault on her" after the dinner on April 25 where Gaither says "I've laid hands on your and love the feel of your body... I'm distracted at this point... What I would appreciate is some aggression from your end. Ha works every time... Seriously... Bring it."

According to the lawsuit, Gaither tried to convince Shaffer to "go for runs with him, to meet him at the gym, and to have dinner with him. She dodged him repeatedly, claiming she didn't not have time to meet with him."

Shaffer claims that Gaither became more aggressive and forward with his sexual advances. She says she was worried about her job and her physical safety, worried that he would show up at her home unannounced.

On May 1, Gaither sent Shaffer a photo of his lake house and asked her to join him there, according to the lawsuit. The next day he sent messages talking about grunting and lunch.

At one point, the message referred to Shaffer by a derogatory name for a woman, according to the lawsuit and text message screen grabs. She asked that he not call her that name and said she wasn't in the mood for lunch.

"I think I'm beginning to understand that arrogant [expletive] reference," the lawsuit claims he texted her, referencing a previous message she'd sent to him.

She later told him that she was offended by his text messages, the lawsuit claims.

According to text messages filed with the lawsuit, Gaither later apologized for making Shaffer feel "confusion anxiety fear etc" and made multiple attempts to find out how much he offended her.

"Nikki I am concerned that'[sic] my conduct is going to come back and hurt my family. Can you pls[sic] reply and let me know," Gaither text her the next day, the lawsuit claims.

Gaither is married and has four children.

"I would like to put the pat[sic] two weeks behind us and move forward," Gaither reportedly text Shaffer. "I did my best when you made an error in judgement. I'd appreciate it if you help me put my error in judgment behind me as well."

According to the lawsuit, Shaffer texted Gaither on May 5 to let him know she left her Letter of Resignation on her desk and it would be effective immediately.

"My letter of resignation is on my former desk in hickory[sic]. I regret I cannot work a notice," she texted him. "I do not intend to make a public issue of my concerns so any concerns about the election or your family should not be an issue. It would be better to avoid contacting me again. You can tell others I am pursuing an alternative job opportunity."

The lawsuit claims that Gaither then began telling people he had fired Shaffer for misconduct.

Shaffer is suing Gaither on multiple counts of violations of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and defamation. She has requested trial with a jury.

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