Accuser Reveals Name in Groping Suit Against Matt Schlapp, Top Conservative

The man who accused Matt Schlapp, the head of one of the nation’s largest conservative advocacy groups, of groping him after a campaign event last year in Georgia agreed on Wednesday to drop his anonymity in a lawsuit against Mr. Schlapp after a judge stipulated that doing so was necessary for the case to proceed.

The man, Carlton Huffman, 39, a longtime political aide, said he had sought anonymity in his initial lawsuit out of concern about potential retaliation from supporters of former President Donald J. Trump. Mr. Schlapp has been an adviser to Mr. Trump for several years.

“The judge ruled the way she did, but we’re ready to move forward,” Mr. Huffman said in a brief interview after a videoconference hearing in the Virginia Circuit Court in Alexandria.

In court filings, Mr. Schlapp has denied the accusations, and a spokesman for him reiterated that on Wednesday. “From before he even filed suit, the plaintiff chose to litigate this in the media while hiding behind anonymity to avoid scrutiny of his unsavory past, troubled work history and issues with honesty,” said Mark Corallo, the spokesman. “We are confident that when his full record is brought to light in a court of law, we will prevail.”

Mr. Schlapp’s group, the American Conservative Union, recently hosted its annual Conservative Political Action Conference near Washington, where Mr. Trump and potential challengers for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination spoke.

Benjamin Chew, a lawyer for Mr. Schlapp, told Chief Judge Lisa Bondareff Kemler on Wednesday that Mr. Huffman had sought anonymity in part to avoid an examination of his background. Mr. Huffman, who lives in North Carolina, acknowledged in the interview that he had been involved 12 years ago with a white supremacist radio program and website, and expressed regret for his actions.

“I had some politically incorrect views that came from a place of undue reverence for the Confederacy when I was growing up,” Mr. Huffman said. “After doing some soul-searching, I turned away from those views in 2011 and everything in my history since then shows a genuine change of heart.”

Mr. Huffman was working on Herschel Walker’s Senate campaign in Georgia last year when he was assigned to drive Mr. Schlapp to an event in Perry, Ga.

That evening, after returning to Atlanta, Mr. Schlapp invited Mr. Huffman for a drink and they visited two bars, according to Mr. Huffman’s lawsuit.

Mr. Huffman said in the suit that Mr. Schlapp made him feel uncomfortable throughout the evening and that Mr. Huffman eventually offered to drive him back to the hotel because of an event early the next morning.

In the lawsuit, Mr. Huffman accuses Mr. Schlapp of grabbing Mr. Huffman’s leg and crotch inside the car as they are driving back to the hotel. Mr. Huffman was “frozen with shock, mortification and fear from what was happening, particularly given Mr. Schlapp’s power and status in conservative political circles,” according to the lawsuit.

After returning home, the staff member spoke to friends about the episode and made personal video recordings about what had happened, according to the lawsuit.

He informed campaign officials about the encounter the next morning, and the campaign barred Mr. Schlapp from future Walker events, according to three other people associated with the campaign who were involved in those discussions and have spoken to The New York Times on the condition of anonymity, saying they were not authorized to discuss personnel matters publicly.

The campaign officials told The Times that they had advised the aide to text Mr. Schlapp that he was uncomfortable with what had happened the previous night. The aide also provided Mr. Schlapp with the name and number of another driver, according to the lawsuit.

Mr. Schlapp then called the aide, who did not answer, according to documents viewed by The Times. A few hours later, Mr. Schlapp texted the aide, wishing him good luck on the campaign.

“If you could see it in your heart to call me at end of day,” Mr. Schlapp texted, “I would appreciate it.”

Susan C. Beachy contributed research.

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