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Release: Senator Dilan challenger Julia Salazar issues statement on 'demonstrably fraudulent accusations made against me years ago by the ex-wife of a family friend...I am a voice for our communities and, therefore, a threat to their power.
Statement on Lawsuit
Sep 6, 2018 | News

This week, a pro-charter school PAC funded by right-wing billionaires including Walmart’s co-founders donated $18,000 to my opponent, Senator Dilan’s campaign. Meanwhile, news broke today revealing that my opponent also had received more money from the real estate industry than any other State Senator in the Democratic Caucus, and that he was a plaintiff in a real estate-funded lawsuit demanding an end to restrictions on corporate political donations.

But instead of addressing these facts, and instead of confronting our grassroots campaign to fight for real change in our district’s communities, my opponent is directing attention to demonstrably fraudulent accusations made against me years ago by the ex-wife of a family friend. A British tabloid (one which described me in overtly sexist terms such as a “socialist pin-up”) published the fraudulent claims, even though legal authorities recognized the claims as utterly baseless.The claims were so transparently baseless and malicious that I sued my accuser for defamation, and I received a monetary settlement as a result. Despite this, the fraudulent claims are now being repeated; that’s why I’m writing today to let you know the facts.

Keith Hernandez and his then-wife, Kai, were friends of my family when I was growing up. In 2010, they were going through a bitter divorce, and Kai was living in their marital home at the time with her new fiancé. I was asked by Kai to house-sit that summer, and what I saw in the home concerned me: a lot of drugs, syringes, and several guns. I knew I had to tell Keith what I saw in his home, and I did. He asked me to document what I saw, and eventually he showed up at the house with local police to check it out.

I thought the story would end there, but I was wrong. In March of 2011, I was contacted by the Tequesta Police Department and asked to meet with a detective there. I willingly went to the police department to speak to the detective — after which I was interrogated and accused of, among other things, having an affair with Keith Hernandez (a man who was 37 years my senior) and of attempting to steal from Kai. Kai produced a recording of a phone call that she claimed was of me trying unsuccessfully to access her bank; the recordings were clearly of someone else’s voice, not my own, and a renowned voice expert named Mr. Owen later determined with nearly 100% certainty that the recorded calls were actually made by Kai, and not by me. Mr. Owen’s office provided comment to support this, and at the time he issued reports verifying this. (Kai also accused me at this point of stealing over $10,000 from her while house sitting — a theft she had “forgotten” to report at the time it happened, or for months afterward).

Thankfully, the District Attorney quickly recognized that these accusations were baseless, and no charges were ever filed against me. Still, this was one of the most frightening things that had ever happened to me; I learned how easily the legal system could be used by the wealthy and powerful to punish someone who had never committed a crime. Beyond the emotional and personal toll that it took on me and my family, I was forced to spend my recently deceased father’s life insurance money on hiring a lawyer to clear my name and expunge the arrest record.

That is why I sought further advice and decided to sue for damages. The case was ultimately settled in my favor, requiring Kai’s representative to pay me $20,000 in damages. That settlement money was used to cover my legal fees that I never should have had in the first place, and didn’t even begin to compensate for the harm Kai had done in trying to frame me for a crime.
I thought I had put all of this behind me; I felt that baseless accusations rejected by the DA and a legal settlement in my favor legally closed the issue. I tried to move on with my life.

Then, this week, a tabloid reporter got his hands on the lawsuit and rehashed Kai’s fraudulent and refuted claims, and paired them together with sexual innuendo about me.

And so, now we are talking about these baseless accusations rather than how to protect affordable housing or win universal healthcare — issues my opponent has refused to champion and address as a State Senator and throughout this race. Women in politics always face a double standard, and the extreme scrutiny of my personal life in this race has been a manifestation of that. What disturbs me is the double standard by which enormously important facts about my opponent’s record — such as his long history of taking donations from landlords while his constituents face displacement, and his funding from right-wing billionaires — have faced far less scrutiny.

These facts about the challenges facing our district are what inspired me to enter this race. I knew that my community needed a new representative in Albany who would stand up to powerful special interests, and who would defend ordinary working people and marginalized communities. That’s what I intend to do after next week’s election, and attempts to distract from the issues that matter to my community won’t distract me. Whatever distortions my opponent and the special interests behind him put forth about me, I know that it’s because they recognize that I am a voice for our communities and, therefore, a threat to their power.