SANTA FE, N.M. (CN) – A mother claims a salesman at a farmers market gave her a free sample of Greek yogurt that he had ejaculated into. And she says the market hired him despite his record of sexual offenses.
Jane Doe sued Sunflower Farmers Market; its employee Anthony Garcia, who allegedly gave her the tainted yogurt; and Michael Gilliland, chief operating officer and co-founder of Sunflower.
Doe claims that Garcia had “a lengthy and disturbing history of sexually motivated offenses,” including public masturbation, indecent exposure, and that he “was charged with multiple counts of kidnapping and criminal sexual contact with a minor” in January 2009, before Sunflower hired him that summer.
Doe says she took her 4-year-old daughter to the market on Corrales Road in Albuquerque in January this year. There, she says, “Sunflower employee/sex offender Garcia approached Ms. Doe, tapped her on the shoulder, and asked if she wanted to try a sample of yogurt.”
Doe says Garcia “had already stalked and approached at least 3 other women that day and given them ‘yogurt’ samples without being stopped or questioned by any supervisors or manager,” though it was not “sample day” and it was not Garcia’s job to hand out samples.
Doe says she refused, but Garcia persisted, so she took the spoonful of stuff Garcia gave her and “was immediately repulsed by what she tasted, as it was evident the sample contained some sort of bodily fluid.”
She adds: “The Albuquerque Police Department would later confirm that Garcia had given this young woman yogurt tainted with his own semen.”
Doe says she was “sickened,” and “repeatedly spat on the floor and rubbed her mouth and tongue on her sweater.”
She says she demanded to talk to a manager, which made Garcia “visibly nervous.” Doe says she complained to the manager “that Garcia had put his bodily fluid into the sample,” but the manager “sent defendant Garcia back to work without any further discussion, and ignored Ms. Doe’s concerns.”
Doe says that when she “relayed her story to the cashiers as she was checking out, they laughed at her concerns.”
She called Albuquerque police, and “Garcia was subsequently arrested on an outstanding felony warrant for criminal sexual contact with a minor, but was quickly released on bond,” according to the complaint.
Doe says Garcia told police he had destroyed the cup from which he offered samples, but police took a sample from yogurt she had spit on the floor, and compared it with a DNA sample from Garcia, which confirmed it was Garcia’s semen.
Doe says Sunflower Market negligently fostered an environment of indifference toward food tampering and inappropriate sexual conduct. She says the market has no training programs or safety procedures to prevent food tampering and no corporate response plans for sexual battery claims.
She claims that Garcia’s record of inappropriate sexual behavior includes being “seen masturbating in an Albuquerque neighborhood” in 2001; being “cited for indecent exposure after he was walking around an Albuquerque Wal-Mart store ‘with his penis hanging out of his pants'” in 2004; being charged with “multiple counts of kidnapping and criminal sexual contact with a minor” in January 2009; and that in 2010, “a female jogger called the police after Garcia ‘undid … his pants and exposed his genital area to her’ in the Bosque.” (Ellipsis in complaint.)
Doe says Sunflower “either did not conduct an adequate background check on defendant Garcia before or during his employment or ignored the results of the background check.”
Finally, Doe says that four weeks after she was sexually battered by Garcia, Sunflower Market CEO Michael Gilliland was arrested and charged with “knowingly soliciting sex with a minor child.”
Doe seeks treble damages for negligence, negligent retention, vicarious liability and unfair trade practices. She says the assault exposed her to risk of pathogens, including hepatitis, and that reporting on the incident hurt her reputation and mental well-being.
(Because Garcia’s acts in this incident did not constitute a sex crime under the letter of the law, Doe says, her identity was not protected from the public.)
She is represented by Randi McGinn with McGinn, Carpenter, Montoya & Love.