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Journalist Alleges 2001 Rape in Springs

Wed, 12/06/2023 - 18:08

Sarah Maslin Nir, an author and New York Times journalist who has been nominated twice for a Pulitzer Prize, has filed suit in New York State Supreme Court against a former Stephen Talkhouse bouncer, claiming he raped her on a beach in Springs in 2001 when she was 18 years old and he 31.

Ms. Nir, who began her career as a summer intern at The East Hampton Star, has retained as her attorney Roberta Kaplan, who secured a $5 million settlement for E. Jean Carroll after a jury trial earlier this year in Ms. Carroll’s rape and defamation case against former President Donald Trump.

The suit targets Garth Wakeford, now a fitness trainer and rugby enthusiast who has organized rugby programs in East Hampton. He has denied the allegations.

The suit, filed on Nov. 22, is among what The Times has described as a “flurry” of such cases filed across New York State under the Adult Survivors Act, just before its one-year statute of limitations expired on that day.

Ms. Nir alleges that Mr. Wakeford allowed her and two friends to enter the Talkhouse and drink alcohol, despite their being under the legal drinking age, and even instructed the bartender to provide her with drinks “on him.” She was 18 at the time and had just graduated from high school. “At the end of the night, Wakeford offered to give Nir a ride home,” the complaint states. “Because he was a bouncer, Nir (naively) viewed him as ‘safe’ and trusted him to drive her back to her parents’ house, only a few miles away.”

She recalls being highly intoxicated — “so much so that she could not even physically get out of the car or walk on her own,” according to the complaint. Mr. Wakeford, who she describes as “over 6-foot-5,” lifted her out of the car, she states, and took her to a trail off the beach at the end of Springs-Fireplace Road.

“Nir later regained consciousness only to notice that her underpants were around one of her ankles,” the complaint states. “It took her moments to realize that she was on the ground and that Wakeford was on top of her, penetrating her with his penis. Nir, who had had just one sexual partner, a long-term boyfriend her own age, was completely terrified.”

One year later, Ms. Nir says in the complaint, she confronted Mr. Wakeford, who she said “admitted” his actions as “the worst thing he had ever done to someone.”

She says she attempted to report the matter to the East Hampton Town Police Department in 2017, but did not finalize her report because the officer “personally knew Wakeford.” She tried again in 2019, at which point there was a police investigation, according to the complaint, but “ultimately, although prosecutors indicated that they believed Nir, Wakeford was not indicted.”

 Through a representative, Brian Glicklich, who specializes in “high-impact strategic and crisis communications,” Mr. Wakeford offered a different version of the story.

In an email, Mr. Glicklich said that Mr. Wakeford’s “relationship with Ms. Nir over 20 years ago was a mutually agreeable summer romance between two consenting adults, and Mr. Wakeford is deeply disappointed by Ms. Nir’s complaint. In point of fact, Ms. Nir and Mr. Wakeford saw each other multiple times leading up to the night Ms. Nir claims she was raped. On the evening in question, Mr. Wakeford drove Ms. Nir home when his work shift ended. During the drive to Ms. Nir’s house, she asked that Mr. Wakeford instead drive them to a beach in front of her friend’s house in East Hampton so that they could have sex as they had planned during their previous conversations. Ms. Nir gave Mr. Wakeford turn-by-turn directions. After engaging in consensual sex, Mr. Wakeford drove Ms. Nir to her family’s house where they kissed goodnight. They remained in contact past that night, until the end of that summer. Mr. Wakeford was invited on numerous occasions to visit Ms. Nir at her school. Mr. Wakeford’s recollections of the events of that summer twenty-plus years ago are very different from what Ms. Nir alleges in her complaint. He viewed their interactions as wholly consensual. He intends to defend himself against this misguided lawsuit.”

Ms. Nir is seeking a jury trial and unspecified compensatory, punitive, and exemplary damages, pre- and post-judgement costs and interest, and “such other and further relief as this court may deem just and proper.”

“No amount of professional success can erase the lasting trauma she has endured for more than two decades,” the complaint reads. “Nir has suffered extreme emotional distress and has sought consistent mental health treatment to help her cope with her trauma. She has struggled with forming relationships and with physical intimacy. To this day, she experiences panic attacks when memories of the rape are triggered, including, at times, during sexual intercourse. Nir has even vomited during moments of sexual intimacy due to abject fear. Nir’s professional obligations for The New York Times frequently require her to tackle stories of sexual violence, which emotionally unravel her. As a result, Nir requires extensive therapy just to do her job. Her encounter with Wakeford that night impaired her life in tragic and permanent ways.”

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