Jaquith faces second lawsuit, plea hearing April 26
Benjamin Jaquith, the Newberg insurance salesman arrested in February on allegations he made unwanted sexual advances on five local women, is slated to appear in court in late April to enter a plea after several continuances.
The hearing is set for 8:30 a.m. April 26 in Yamhill County Circuit Court Judge Ladd Wiles' courtroom.
Jaquith was arrested Jan. 26 and charged with six counts of third-degree sexual assault, a Class A misdemeanor, after allegations were leveled by a group of local women. He was detained for a short time in the Yamhill County jail following his arrest, but posted security on the $30,000 bail.
The 38-year-old was discharged from his job as an agent for American Family Insurance soon after the allegations arose, according to a spokesman for the business.
The 2016 Chehalem Valley Chamber of Commerce's Business Person of the Year has retained McMinnville attorney Abraham Hanson as his counsel; the case is being prosecuted by Deputy District Attorney Stephanie Harmon. Attempts to contact Jaquith or Hanson for comment have so far been unsuccessful.
Jaquith's arrest stemmed from an investigation by the Newberg-Dundee Police Department after five women came forward to report unwanted sexual contact with him over a two-year period at four venues and a variety of events, some social and others connected to Jaquith's insurance businesses – American Family Insurance and Jaquith Family Insurance Inc.
"During this investigation detectives were able to obtain corroborating evidence in the case and to support the charges," an NDPD release said.
The instances of alleged abuse began in August 2015 and continued through February 2017. In a probable cause affidavit filed prior to Jaquith's arrest, NDPD Detective Todd Baltzell listed multiple instances where the women alleged that Jaquith initiated unwanted sexual contact with them.
"An adult female reported in August of 2015 (that) Ben Jaquith had unwanted sexual contact with her while she walked him home from a bar to ensure he made it home safely. She reported he grabbed her by her buttocks with one hand and by the hair with the other hand and pulled her into him, forcing a kiss against her will," the affidavit recounted, adding that Jaquith later appeared contrite. "The female showed me a message to her from him apologizing for his behavior, blaming his drinking and promised this would never happen again."
The affidavit lists six other instances of similar alleged behavior, all followed by calls or texts from Jaquith the following day apologizing and promising it would never happen again.
According to state statutes, third-degree sexual abuse is committed when a "person subjects another person to sexual contact and the victim does not consent to the sexual contact … for the purpose of arousing or gratifying the sexual desire of the person or another person …"
Pair of civil suits filed
Jaquith's troubles aren't limited to his criminal charges. Two of the five women that came forward to accuse him of inappropriate sexual advances have filed civil suits in Yamhill County Circuit Court.
In early February Robin Sikkins, owner of Social Goods: Toys, Taps, Café, sought redress against Jaquith, claiming battery, assault, negligent infliction of emotional distress and defamation. The suit seeks upwards of $750,000 in economic and non-economic damages.
The lawsuit is based on the events of Feb. 1, 2017, when Jaquith allegedly made numerous sexual advances on Sikkins at a wine event at Social Goods. The suit claims he was persistent, despite her objections, including in front of other attendees of the event.
"Defendant was persistent and undeterred, despite having a wife and three children whom he had left for the evening, while he sexually harassed a married woman …," the suit states, adding that Sikkins had contacted the NDPD to press criminal charges.
A development in Sikkins' lawsuit occurred several weeks ago when her attorney filed on March 6 his intent to apply for an "order of default" because Jaquith and his attorney were not responding to motions from him and the court. An order of default requests that the judge intercede and render a judgement against the defendant.
Jaquith's counsel, Portland attorney Robert Scholz, responded on March 19 in a "defendant's answer." In the response, Jaquith exercises his right, under the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the Article 1 (Section 12) of the Oregon Constitution, against self-incrimination.
However, Jaquith also admits that he attended the event at Social Goods in February 2017 and had "limited physical contact with (Sikkins) that she later asserted was unwelcome," but denies many of the other allegations made against him in her lawsuit, including that he tried to defame Sikkins during a staff meeting at American Family Insurance and in the community thereafter.
Jaquith is the brunt of a second lawsuit originally field in November 2017 in Multnomah County Circuit Court by Stephanie Johnson, a former employee at Jaquith Family Insurance Inc. in Newberg. The venue for the lawsuit was changed to Yamhill County some months later.
In her lawsuit, Johnson claims Jaquith terminated her employment at the insurance agency because she would not acquiesce to his "chronic, persistent and pervasive sexual harassment throughout the course of her employment with defendant."
Johnson's lawsuit seeks economic damages not to exceed $300,000 for back pay, front pay, loss of benefits and future earning capacity, as well as non-economic damages not to exceed $300,000 for mental suffering and emotional distress.
The suit also claims battery in a January 2015 incident at a work retreat at a beach house in Lincoln City, where she said she resisted numerous unwanted sexual advances by Jaquith. That portion of the lawsuit seeks non-economic damages not to exceed $200,000.
A claim for unpaid wages seeks $1,632 as well.