Group of Nebraska State Senators launch fund for alleged Herbster victims

(La Vista, NE) -- Four Nebraska State Senators launch a fund for alleged victims and witnesses of candidate for governor Charles Herbster's reported sexual misconduct.

On Tuesday, Senators Lou Ann Linehan of Elkhorn, Joni Albrecht of Thurston, Suzanne Geist of Lincoln, and Rita Sanders of Bellevue announced the creation of the "Herbster Victim Witness Defense Fund." The Senators say the fund was created to support anyone who may have experienced or witnessed misconduct by Herbster, but may have been too intimidated to come forward. “We are Nebraska leaders determined that no survivor or witness of sexual assault will be intimidated into silence,” the website states. “The Herbster Victim Witness Legal Defense Fund is standing up to Herbster’s tactics by helping survivors and witnesses of his misconduct pay legal bills and receive the counsel they deserve.” The site promises to handle all information received “with sensitivity and confidentiality.” The senators are listed as the fund’s board of directors.

Herbster, a GOP candidate for governor of Nebraska, was recently accused by eight women, including State Senator Julie Slama, of sexual misconduct. On Friday, Herbster's campaign announced that he had filed a lawsuit in Johnson County in response to accusations made by Slama that she had been sexually assaulted by Herbster at a Republican dinner in 2019. The other woman have reported over the clothes touching, while one woman says Herbster forcibly kissed her. On Monday, Slama filed a countersuit against Herbster:

We will not permit Charles Herbster to file a frivolous, bad faith lawsuit that purports to cast doubt on Senator Slama’s account of her sexual assault, use his national media megaphone to herald the existence of that lawsuit for his own gain, but then take no steps to actually serve it and subject himself to the legal accountability such service would trigger. We will show this lawsuit for what it is: a frivolous and bad faith attempt to bully a sexual assault victim into silence. Charles Herbster chose to subject himself to Nebraska’s judicial system, and Senator Slama will hold him to that choice. - David Lopez, Slama's attorney

Although the four senators have endorsed Herbster's political rival Jim Pillen for governor, they say the creation of the legal defense fund is not politically motivated. Senator Linehan said it was a show of solidarity for their fellow state senator. The senators say Slama has been, “carrying this around for so long,” the senators adding that there was no political gain for her to do so. “She stepped forward because she knew he should not be governor,” Linehan said.

The Herbster campaign launched a new ad on Tuesday that compares the recent accusations made against him to accusations of sexual misconduct made against Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas and Brett Kavanaugh. The ad also alleges that Jim Pillen and Gov. Pete Rickets are behind the sexual misconduct allegations made by Slama, ending with “Jim Pillen’s attack on Herbster, built on lies."

Slama’s attorney released a statement Tuesday about Herbster’s most recent ad:

“Charles Herbster released a vicious new political advertisement this morning, trying to bully sexual assault victims into silence. Herbster’s “Jenga” ad falsely attributes Senator Slama’s account of sexual assault by Herbster as being part of a wild conspiracy. Herbster’s ad slanders Senator Slama’s family members, and promotes a far-ranging conspiracy theory that other people are behind well-corroborated reports of sexual assault and harassment of 8 women and at least 3 on-the-record witness accounts. Charles Herbster is solely responsible for the harm he inflicted against Senator Slama, and he will answer for it in court.
Just as she is holding Herbster accountable for his frivolous lawsuit, Senator Slama will take the appropriate steps to hold him accountable for this latest round of slander against her. In the meantime, media outlets should carefully consider whether they want to continue to broadcast this inherently defamatory content. We call on the responsible members of Nebraska’s media community to conduct their own due diligence and force Herbster to show a factual basis for the conspiratorial claims in this ad for this ad to continue to run.” - Dave Lopez, attorney for Nebraska State Sen. Julie Slama

Herbster's campaign released the following statement after the announcement of the legal fund:

This is just another attempt by the Jim Pillen campaign and Ricketts establishment machine to sling mud at Charles W. Herbster before the May 10th primary election. All four Senators have been financially supported by Governor Ricketts in the past and were early supporters of Jim Pillen. It is absolutely shameful that they would use such serious matters to push a political smear campaign.
Charles will continue to fight to expose politically-motivated lies, to clear his good name, and to focus on the issues that he will tackle as the next governor of Nebraska. - Ellen Keast, Campaign Manager

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