Woman Accuses Publishing Executive Laurence Kirshbaum of Indecent Attacks
MANHATTAN (CN) - Publishing executive Laurence Kirshbaum sexually assaulted a woman in public twice, "thrusting" a hand into her panties in a restaurant and his tongue into her vagina as they sat in a café, she claims in court.
Teresa Ellen McCoy sued Laurence Kirshbaum, Hachette Book Group and PEN American Center, in New York County Supreme Court.
Kirshbaum, 69, is chief of publishing for Amazon Publishing and the former CEO of Time Warner Book Group.
Neither Amazon nor Time Warner Book Group is named as defendant.
In the graphic, 17-page complaint, McCoy, an editor, project producer and curator, claims she had a business relationship with Kirshbaum while he was chairman and CEO of Time Warner Book Group, the corporate predecessor of defendant Hachette Book Group.
McCoy says in the complaint that she had a personal relationship with Kirshbaum before 2005; she does not specify when that relationship ended.
After Kirshbaum became executive vice president of the PEN Board of Trustees, he offered to recommend McCoy for a well-paid job with PEN, according to the complaint.
McCoy says she kept in touch with Kirshbaum, whom she had not seen for years, about professional opportunities, and in 2010 she agreed to meet him to discuss the job opening at PEN.
After the meeting, she claims, Kirshbaum began sending her "flirty emails" and assured her he was pursuing the PEN position for her.
"In all communications with Kirshbaum, plaintiff focused on the position, but he continued flirting and finally sought to resume sexual relations with her," the complaint states. "Plaintiff made it clear to Kirshbaum, however, that any relationship had to be a professional one. Once Kirshbaum got the drift, he informed plaintiff, on or about July 19, that she was now 'a long shot' for the position because there were allegedly more qualified candidates. At that point, she was intimidated into never finishing the job application."
The lawsuit continues: "About two weeks later, plaintiff reached out to Kirshbaum, thanking him for recommending her and asking him to keep her in mind if another position became available at PEN. Kirshbaum told her that he would ask about it and would find out all the information between then and a time they could meet and discuss it. Plaintiff agreed that they could meet for coffee.
"Plaintiff and Kirshbaum met on Aug. 9 at a deli/restaurant on East 45 Street and Lexington Avenue. While plaintiff was standing looking at different salad choices she asked Kirshbaum what he was going to get. Instead of replying, the much physically larger Kirshbaum suddenly swooped down, grabbed her and forcibly stuck his tongue in her mouth, causing plaintiff's neck to jerk back in pain in excruciating pain [sic]. While plaintiff was in pain and stunned, Kirshbaum thrust a hand into her pants and panties and touched her anus.
"In a state of shock, plaintiff pushed Kirshbaum away, telling him to stop and she was leaving. Kirshbaum apologized profusely, begged her not to leave and said he was overcome by emotion, she was and always would be the love of his life, he wanted to leave his wife, and she could get any job she wanted or he would give her money.
"Not being satisfied with having committed a criminal assault, Kirshbaum led plaintiff outside while she was still in shock and forcibly stuck his tongue in her mouth, pressing his body against hers.
"Several days later, plaintiff emailed Kirshbaum that she was offended by his conduct and was feeling emotionally vulnerable and confused.
"On Oct. 4, 2010, again with full knowledge of plaintiff's psychological and emotional vulnerabilities, Kirshbaum lured her to a meeting at the Machiatto Expresso Bar at 141 East 44th Street with the promise that he would donate funds to her documentary film project. Plaintiff hoped that this meeting would be quick and strictly professional as the location would be too busy for Kirshbaum to do anything other than act as a professional and gentleman.
"They met at Machiatto at about 3:40 p.m. There were a few customers there. Kirshbaum led plaintiff to a back table. Plaintiff sat on a banquette against the wall and Kirshbaum sat on a chair diagonally across from her.
"Right after a couple left a nearby table and the only other customers were at the front looking out the window, Kirshbaum got up and sat next to plaintiff. With the wall on one side and Kirshbaum on the other, plaintiff had nowhere to go. There was a bag between them and plaintiff expected Kirshbaum to slip a check in her bag. He could see that plaintiff was now nervous and told her, 'don't be so uptight.' Kirshbaum told her how much he missed her and what he missed about her and then suddenly he put his hand up plaintiff's skirt and into her panties. Plaintiff tried to push his hand away but he was far too strong, relentless and forceful. Kirshbaum thrust his fingers into plaintiff's vagina. Plaintiff begged him to stop. Kirshbaum demanded that plaintiff be quiet, he said he was not going to wait any longer and she should stop pretending that she did not need it. Plaintiff continued begging Kirshbaum and he removed his fingers.
"Hoping the horror was at an end, plaintiff tried to cover her legs with her coat but Kirshbaum stopped her and threatened, I'm not done yet, don't make me have to tell you again, don't make me angry. Kirshbaum said, 'I don't want to hurt you but I will if I have to. Don't make me do something I'd rather not.' Plaintiff knew from Kirshbaum's eyes that he was deadly serious and she feared for her safety.
"Kirshbaum leaned toward plaintiff and put his hand on her panties. She tried to push his hand away but he knocked her hand away and pulled her panties to the side, leaned further over and forced his tongue into her vagina, making moaning and groaning noises. Kirshbaum stood up and turned toward plaintiff, who had moved so he could not sit down again. He leaned over, grabbed plaintiff's head causing severe pain, thrust his tongue inside her mouth and slid his left hand under her coat to fondle a breast and pulled and twisted the nipple.
"So that she keep quiet as to what he had done, Kirshbaum reminded plaintiff of a close family relation, who he had told her was a 'federal prosecutor' in a threatening email years earlier. Coming on top of his despicable and criminal conduct, Kirshbaum's threat was very real to plaintiff, who was extremely psychologically and emotionally vulnerable at that moment. (The threat was a factor in intimidating plaintiff from reporting Kirshbaum's conduct for a substantial period of time).
"Kirshbaum exited the café, leaving plaintiff crying at the table.
"Plaintiff felt terrified and ashamed and her life started to unravel.
"Plaintiff and Kirshbaum did not communicate until he started sending her emails in May 2011 because he was worried that his despicable and illegal conduct in August and October 2010 would somehow be revealed to [his] new employer. He followed up with a 41-minute telephone conversation in June 2011 during which Kirshbaum made lewd comments, threatened plaintiff and begged her to meet him so that he could 'fix things.'" (Parentheses, but not brackets, in complaint).
McCoy claims Kirshbaum knew of her fragile emotional state and used his position and influence "to act out his abusive sexual fantasies" toward her.
She seeks compensatory and punitive damages for violations of state laws, negligent infliction of emotional distress, breach of contract, negligence and vicarious liability.
She is represented by Robert Erlanger.
Contact information for Kirshbaum could not be found Tuesday.
Kirshbaum's lawyer, Catherine Redlich, called the allegations "baseless," telling the New York Daily News that they stemmed from a "consensual relationship from a decade ago which turned sour when McCoy began threatening Mr. Kirshbaum and his family with public embarrassment and demanding money."