ST. LOUIS — Until now, Amy Harms has been known only as the first woman to publicly accuse Democratic state Sen. Steven Roberts of sexual assault.
This week, she spoke publicly to talk about a $100,000 settlement she reached with Roberts even though the two had a confidentiality agreement.
“I shouldn't have to be defending myself, but I am,” she said. “If this is what I have to do to be able to get the news out, to be able to hold him accountable finally, it frickin’ took seven years, but here I am.”
She reached the agreement with Roberts in 2019, saying in an interview with the I-Team that Roberts broke the agreement first by calling all of the sexual assault allegations against him false.
“You've now defamed me, you've now accused me of a crime by falsely reporting your crime against me,” she said.
Roberts’ campaign responded with a statement, which said, "Roberts, as well as the entire Roberts family, did not pay Amy Harms a dime.
"In a separate civil matter, against the wishes of Mr. Roberts, an insurance company reached a settlement agreement, which Amy Harms has now violated.”
Roberts, who is challenging Rep. Cori Bush to represent Missouri’s 1st Congressional District, also went public this week with the terms of a confidential settlement he reached with another woman who accused him of sexual assault.
The settlement between Roberts and Cora Faith Walker did not involve money, but rather agreed upon public statements either party could release should the terms be violated.
Roberts was never charged in either incident.
“People have the right to know the truth,” he said.
Walker died unexpectedly just weeks ago.
Harms said Walker was her inspiration to sue Roberts.
“After Cora, I knew something needed to be done,” she said.
Attorney Jeremy Hollingshead represented Roberts during the civil lawsuit involving Harms, and compared the payment to how an insurance company pays claims made against clients following car accidents—even if their clients are not at fault.
“Even if you do nothing wrong, you’re still going to turn something like this over to your insurance company because you don’t want to pay a lawyer to defend a frivolous lawsuit against you,” Hollingshead said. “(Roberts) had a situation where Harms initiated a lawsuit and he was lucky enough that he had an umbrella policy designed to cover the circumstances.”
Roberts wanted to go to trial, his attorney said.
“He didn’t have a choice, it was what the insurance company wanted,” Hollingshead said. “They’re driven by the cost of a defense, and that could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars or they could pay it out and be done.
“Steven looked at it from, ‘I know it’s not my money, but I want my reputation restored.’ But that’s not what the insurance company cares about. They care about their money.”
Harms said she, too, wanted to go to trial and now regrets accepting the $100,000 settlement.
“I wanted to take an opportunity to try to move on with my life and move forward without having to have a public trial,” she said. “In retrospect, I wish I had just gone to trial. Then I wouldn't be here seven years later, still doing this, still dealing with this.”
An alleged assault
Harms said she was a law student at St. Louis University in 2015 when she went out with some fellow female law students to watch a St. Louis Blues game at a bar along Washington Avenue.
Roberts showed up, and sat across from her at a high-top table.
“I'm there with a bunch of other women who were about to become attorneys, and he thinks this is still a good place and a good time and a good person to choose to sexually assault as a complete stranger in a crowded public area,” Harms said in an interview with the I-Team.
Harms said Roberts then moved next to her and touched her over her clothing inappropriately.
“I asked him to please stop, I said it was inappropriate, I said I was uncomfortable,” she said.
Harms reported the incident to the Title IX office at St. Louis University, and six days later to St. Louis police.
At the time, Roberts was working as an assistant circuit attorney in St. Louis, so St. Charles County prosecuting attorney Tim Lohmar was assigned as a special prosecutor on the case.
Ultimately, he deferred prosecution, which means his office "dismissed the case, but reserve the right to refile within the statute of limitations," Lohmar wrote in a statement to the I-Team.
"We were uncertain that the we could prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt based upon the entirety of the evidence," Lohmar added.
Roberts’ criminal defense attorney, Scott Rosenblum, said his client would have had to have 12-foot arms to assault her the way in which she described it to police, and said witness statements changed.
Harms told the I-Team Roberts was sitting next to her, not across the table from her, when he touched her without her consent.
Another accuser comes forward
Less than two years later, another woman, Cora Faith Walker, accused Roberts of sexual assault.
“After Cora, I realized something had to be done,” Harms said.
Harms sued Roberts in 2017.
Also that year, Roberts sued Walker for defamation.
Both lawsuits settled in 2019.
Both had confidentiality agreements.
Harms’ involved money; Walker’s did not.
Roberts filed several motions earlier this year to try to get the public statements agreed upon within the settlement released, saying Walker violated it by calling herself a “survivor” on social media without specifically saying she was not referring to Roberts per the agreement.
Walker then died unexpectedly March 11 at a hotel in downtown St. Louis.
The final autopsy report is still pending.
Roberts said he went public with the agreement with Walker in response to his political opponent Missouri Rep. Cori Bush.
“Her supporters keep trying to recycle these old false stories that were proven to be false in order to distract away from an indefensible voting record,” he said.
In response to questions about Harms’ lawsuit, Roberts would say only: “It was dismissed with prejudice.”
“The accusations against me were investigated by the police department, an independent Republican prosecutor, as well as the Department of Defense as part of top secret security clearance,” he said. “All of the agencies, everyone who looked at the evidence, came to the same conclusion, that I was telling the truth.”
Harms said she did not know Walker, and did not ever communicate with her except on one occasion.
Walker sent her a text message on Nov. 9, 2016, which read: “Hi Amy. This is Cora Faith Walker. I just want you to know that I am thinking of you today. Thank you so much for your courage in speaking out. It meant SO MUCH to me to know I was not the only one.”
Harms said she still struggles with what happened.
“I went to the police, I did everything right, I didn't really have much more that I could have done,” she said. “But I always felt like I could have, and should have done more.”
Resources for those experiencing domestic violence
If you or someone you know needs help, you can call the Safe Connections Crisis Helpline at 314-531-2003. You can also text that number from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, free of charge.
Alternatives to Living In Violent Environments (ALIVE) also has a crisis line at 314-993-2777 and they have a number for Franklin County at 800-941-9144.
The Women's Safe House can be reached 24 hours a day at 314-772-4535.
Editor's note: An earlier version of this story contained an inaccurate number of days before Amy Harms reported the incident to St. Louis police.