A Florida lawmaker accused of creating a sexualized work environment and sexually harassing two male staffers was cleared in a House investigation. That’s the second time this year the Florida House of Representatives found no merit to accusations against Florida Rep. Fabian Basabe, a Republican.
“Throughout this process, I never doubted for a moment that I would be cleared of these false and feigned allegations,” Basabe said. “I’d like to thank the investigators for their diligent work in ensuring a thorough examination of the facts; and also express my gratitude to my constituents who stood by me during this challenging time.”
Two former employees, legislative aide Nicholas Frevola and former intern Jacob Cutbirth, accused Basabe of perpetually demanding they have sex with him. The allegations were being investigated by the Florida House internally, but the two men also sued Basabe in Florida circuit court.
Cindy Myers, an attorney for both men, said that suit remains ongoing. She criticized the internal investigation as incomplete and insincere.
“This whole report is just, so concerning and disappointing,” she said.
The report said accounts from the accusers ultimately could not be verified.
“My investigation could not confirm Mr. Frevola or Mr. Cutbirth’s version of events, other than both reporting similar independently made comments from Representative Basabe about sex being a sport for men, and both being shown the photo on Representative Basabe’s phone of the man in a bikini,” wrote investigator Marlene Quintana, from law firm GrayRobinson. “Therefore I find no evidence to support that Representative Basabe engaged in harassment, sexual or otherwise.”
This is the second time investigators hired by the Florida House cleared Basabe of allegations from Frevola. The aide said Basabe, at a party the day of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ second inauguration, had challenged Frevola about whether he was sleeping with a female lobbyist, in the woman’s presence. When both Frevlola and the woman said no, Basabe said “Oh, so you’re cheating” and slapped the aide, according to his lawsuit.
But an investigation by Allen Norton & Blue said no one interviewed would corroborate that story, and investigators findings were inconclusive.
The second investigation was prompted by further allegations from Frevola, including that Basabe at a school Career Day event grabbed his buttocks and said “I want ALL of that butt!” per the ongoing lawsuit. Separately, Cutbirth said that after driving an intoxicated Basabe to a hotel, the lawmaker tried to kiss the intern and entice him to his room for sex. Cutbirth declined, he said in the lawsuit.
Both plaintiffs identify as straight.
The latest report said Basabe was surprised by allegations and described Cutbirth’s time working for the office as a “brief internship.” Quintana said while Cutbirth appeared “very credible” in interviews, Basabe was also forthright in all answers about incidents.
The report notes Frevola for a time lived in a guest house at a Miami property Basabe owned and describes a time Basabe was present at a social gathering at the home. It also, curiously, described a social gathering at a home owned by Basabe, which Cuba Gooding, Jr. attended as a personal friend of the lawmaker. Frevola told investigators that someone at the party asked if Frevola could be abused sexually, and the lawmaker said, “You can abuse him all you want.” Basabe denies any memory of this.
The report references both men saying Basabe frequently described sex as a sport — the lawsuit quotes Basabe encouraging the men to participate in “sportfucking.” The report also notes accusations that Basabe showed photos of naked men or men clad in bikinis, and Frevola said the lawmaker would “tickle grab” individuals and make them feel uncomfortable.
Basabe denied all accusations, something he reiterated in a statement after the release of the report.
“I hold no ill will towards the young men who made these accusations. I believe they were misguided and, in my opinion, embarked on the wrong path with ill intentions for personal gain. I trust this will serve as a learning experience for all involved,” Basabe said.
“As someone who has been in the public’s eye for a very long time, I have become accustomed to both bad and falsified press.”
Myers said the report glossed over, or completely omitted, many details. Both men said Basabe shared nude photos of men, not men in bikinis, as one example. But she was most distressed that the report made no mention of a text message Cutbirth sent on his final day working in the office.
“I quit the capital, kinda,” Cutbirth wrote in the message, which was supplied to The Advocate. “I said I’ll help with their newsletter if that means I can keep the position on my resume but I won’t be going to the capital anymore and will be doing any awoke (sic) from home to avoid being sexually harassed.”
Myers said the contemporaneous account, sent long before Cutbirth went public with the accusation, should serve as evidence. She said the Florida House has continually brushed off accusations against Basabe, and suggested leaders there were more interested in keeping control of a swing seat.
“We are not surprised this happened, and it doesn’t change anything with our complaint,” she said.
Basabe said he just wants the attention on the report clearing him that was given to the initial accusations.
“The media sensationalized a story that, in my opinion, had no merit,” he said. “It has often been said that the media loves to focus on tabloid-style gossip, but when it comes to vindication, the coverage can be far less enthusiastic. I only hope that the media will now focus on the clearing of my name with as much vigor they applied when the allegations first surfaced.”