(Bloomberg) -- Donald Trump’s country club in Bedminster, New Jersey, was sued by an ex-server who claims one of the former president’s top lawyers tricked her into accepting a “paltry” settlement with an illegal nondisclosure provision after she accused her manager of sexual assault.
Alice Bianco alleges the abuse started with a forced kiss by her boss shortly after she began working at the Trump National Golf Club in May 2021. She claims it quickly escalated into a quid pro quo sexual relationship required for job “protection,” according to her lawsuit, filed Thursday in state court.
Alleging discrimination and fraud, Bianco is asking the court to void the settlement and bar the golf club from trying to enforce it. If she succeeds, she could file a suit over the alleged acts that seeks more money, and she wouldn’t be exposed to legal action for publicly discussing her claims. She is also seeking disciplinary action against the lawyer, Alina Habba.
Neither Habba nor Trump is named as a defendant in the complaint, which doesn’t accuse Trump of wrongdoing. But it comes as the former president faces multiple trials amid his campaign to return to the White House, and it alleges misconduct by Habba in the midst of her defense of Trump in New York state’s civil fraud trial now underway in Manhattan.
Bianco, 24, says she hired her own attorney in July 2021 after ending the coerced relationship and making her claims known to the club’s human resources department.
Habba and Trump
That’s when she says she was approached at work by Habba, who is a member of the club and sometimes dined with Trump. Habba didn’t represent Trump at the time, but Bianco claims she was secretly pursuing his interests in the matter. Habba went on to handle some of his biggest cases, including the fraud case and a sex abuse suit by New York author E. Jean Carroll.
Read More: Trump’s Lawyer Leads Counterattack From Her 5-Attorney Firm
Habba denied the allegations.
“I always conduct myself ethically and acted no differently in this circumstance,” she said in a statement.
The Trump Organization didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Bianco is also asking the court to refer Habba’s alleged misconduct to the state’s Office of Attorney Ethics.
Habba allegedly pretended to befriend Bianco and then manipulated her into ignoring her new employment lawyer before any claims were filed. Bianco says Habba then tricked her into signing what she now calls a “fraudulently induced” settlement. The complaint doesn’t say how much money she received through the settlement, but a text message between her and Habba attached to the suit suggests she ended up with $15,000.
According to the suit, Habba falsely told Bianco that the settlement was tax-free and that she would arrange to pay for her therapy. In addition, Bianco claims, Habba failed to provide her with a copy of the pact after it was reached, and warned her against having another lawyer look at it.
“I’m trying to help you, you are going to make it more difficult,” Habba said, according to the complaint.
The text messages show that Bianco was grateful to Habba at the time. In one exchange Habba thanks her for gifts she sent about a week after the settlement was signed in August 2021.
“You really are the best!” Bianco responds. “Friends forever.”
The manager who allegedly assaulted Bianco was fired by the club over his behavior, according to a person familiar with the matter, who declined to be identified discussing nonpublic information.
Habba, an outspoken Trump supporter who argues he is the victim of a partisan smear campaign, has had legal troubles stemming from her work for him before. In January, a federal judge ordered Trump and Habba to pay almost $1 million in legal fees and costs to Hillary Clinton and others for filing a “frivolous” suit accusing them of a vast conspiracy to damage Trump’s reputation. The judge said “no reasonable lawyer” should have filed such a complaint.
Habba and Trump have appealed.
The new case is Bianco v. Lamington Farm Club, d/b/a Trump National Golf Club Bedminster, MID-L-006708-23, Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division.
--With assistance from David Voreacos.
(Adds Bianco text in last section.)
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