Two male staffers accused Republican Florida state Rep. Fabian Basabe of perpetually demanding they have sex with him. Now, a series of complaints filed by the men suggests more sexual harassment victims may soon come forward.
Nicolas Frevola, a 25-year-old legislative aide, and Jacob Cutbirth, a 24-year-old intern, last week filed a lawsuit against Basabe detailing physical assault and explicit sexual comments delivered by the Miami Republican to both men.
“This is a workplace,” said Cindy Myers, an attorney for the accusers. She said the sexually charged conduct demonstrated repeatedly by Basabe made a hostile environment. And while both her clients are straight men, she said nobody should have to put up with unwanted advances from an employer.
“Neither of these young men are anti-LGBTQ+,” she said. “They just aren’t inclined to have sex with other men… But even if they were gay, if they told (Basabe) no, he doesn’t have the right to do any of this.”
Frevola previously alleged Basabe struck him in a public setting. In a complaint to the Florida House, Frevola said Basabe on the day of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ second inauguration in January physically slapped him in a roomful of lobbyists. In written complaints and interviews with investigators, Frevola said Basabe publicly asked Frevola at the event if he had been sleeping with a lobbyist, with the woman in question present. When Frevola and the woman both said no, Basabe said “Oh, so you’re cheating” and struck his face before demanding he stand in the corner, according to Frevola’s lawsuit.
An outside investigation by Allen Norton & Blue interviewed several witnesses, but each gave disparate accounts and none admitted to personally witnessing a slap. Ultimately, conflicts in the accounts led the investigator to an “inconclusive” finding.
Basabe did not return calls from The Advocate. His attorney Robert Fernandez gave a statement about the accusations to CBS News: “Representative Basabe will not be litigating this frivolous and meritless lawsuit in the media or giving it any more public attention than it deserves---which is none. Representative Basabe looks forward to defending himself in court and we believe he will be fully vindicated once these allegations are scrutinized under the rule of law."
The Florida House after receiving a complaint issued a statement promising an outside firm will investigate the claims.
“We received an allegation of sexual harassment concerning Rep. Fabian Basabe. The Florida House has a zero-tolerance policy towards sexual harassment. Outside counsel will conduct a thorough investigation into the allegation. Pursuant to House policies, we will investigate the matter promptly, impartially, and in as confidential a manner as possible. Every employee of the Florida House is provided a copy of the administrative policy manual which outlines how to report allegations of sexual harassment with Florida House staff and leadership."
It continued: “This new allegation was brought forward after the completion of an investigation regarding an alleged physical altercation between Rep. Basabe and a Florida House employee, which included interviews of the complainant’s witnesses, and produced inconclusive findings. Throughout the investigation, both parties should respect the confidentiality of the proceedings to protect the integrity of the investigation. While this matter is being thoroughly investigated, we will not comment further."
Even before that conflict went public, Cutbirth reached out to Myers, upset at his own treatment by Basabe. Frevola and he filed a lawsuit last week detailing new accusations.
Cutbirth alleges that in December, he drove an intoxicated Basabe back to his hotel when the lawmaker began to grope him and tried to kiss him. According to the lawsuit, Basabe tried to entice the intern to come to his hotel room for sex, but Cutbirth refused. The intern initially believed Basabe would be embarrassed when he sobered up and refrain from further advances.
Cutbirth said Basabe called him into his office in February for a conversation the intern hoped would include an apology for the hotel incident. Instead, Basabe demanded Cutbirth flirt with him in the office. Days later, he said he liked to keep the intern around as “eye candy,” according to the complaint.
Five days after the hotel incident, Frevola in the lawsuit alleges Basabe, while at an elementary school Career Day event, grabbed the aide’s buttocks and told him “I want ALL of that butt!”
Meanwhile, the Republican lawmaker allegedly told Cutbirth to break off an engagement with a woman, whom he has since married, and to explore sex with men.
Basabe in the past has both presented himself at political functions as an out gay Republicans and in political campaign materials as a family man in a traditional marriage to a woman.
But the lawsuit alleges he told both staffers they should engage in “sport f*cking” before settling down. It also said Basabe regularly boasted about having gay sex outside his marriage.
In addition to the lawsuit, detailed allegations appear in a complaint filed Monday directly to the Florida House of Representatives. An attorney for the men says a complaint will soon be filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Basabe in March told both men in the same room that he was a “bottom” and that the staffers should be “tops” if they engaged in anal sex with him, according to the complaint filed with the House. Later the same day, the complaint says Basabe asked Cutbirth on the way to a local restaurant if he had a “big dick.” That prompted Cutbirth finally to quit and never return to the office.
Myers said both men were initially reluctant to go public with accusations because Basabe requires employees to sign non-disclosure agreements when they start work. Myers said that can’t be enforced for public employees, who work for the state and are bound by Florida’s public record and government-in-the-sunshine laws.
Of note, the complaint states two other friends of Frevola also have similar experiences but signed non-disclosure agreements and remain unsure about going public with accusations. Myers hopes they will join as plaintiffs in the case as well.
But she said going public with accusations remains difficult for young employees fearful about their careers. That’s especially true of young men who face sexual harassment, she said.
“Women have a hard enough time being harassed,” Myers said. “But it is a whole other level with male sexual harassment or battery on a guy. This is very deeply personal.”
She noted Cutbirth recently was married. Frevola remains an employee of the House, where officials plan to transfer him so he can work for another lawmaker, but still plan to assign him to an office in Miami working in the same community as Basabe.