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Former Garcetti aide says he might have hugged but never harassed

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Rick Jacobs, a former aide to Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, has denied ever sexually harassing anyone, but conceded that he may have hugged the officer suing the city over Jacobs’ alleged behavior. He also said he may have made sexual jokes in front of the mayor’s security detail.

In a deposition taken in March and reviewed Friday by The Times, Jacobs was also asked if Garcetti was around when he hugged LAPD officer Matt Garza. “I don’t recall,” Jacobs said.

Garza, who served on Garcetti’s security detail, sued the city in July, alleging that Jacobs made crude sexual comments, massaged his shoulders and hugged him during a period between 2014-19.

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Garza alleged that the harassment happened in Los Angeles, as well as on trips for work or political events. Garcetti witnessed the harassment but did nothing to stop it, Garza’s lawsuit claims.

Jacobs, a former deputy chief of staff for Garcetti, has called the allegations against him “pure fiction” and Garcetti has denied witnessing any inappropriate behavior by Jacobs.

Garcetti is likely to be named U.S. ambassador to India by President Biden, a position that requires Senate confirmation.

Jacobs, in his deposition testimony, repeatedly answered “no” or “not that I recall” when asked questions about his behavior by Garza’s attorney Greg Smith.

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He denied that he ever asked Garza whether he wore large condoms and also denied he made an explicit comment about sex in front of the officer.

He also denied that he motioned to Garza to sit on his lap when Jacobs was at a bar in Phoenix for a political event in 2018, as Garza alleges. He said he couldn’t recall licking a straw in a “suggestive manner” while looking at the police officer, as Garza alleges.

Jacobs, who no longer advises the mayor, said he was surprised when he found out that Garza was contemplating a lawsuit last summer.

Asked why he had that reaction, Jacobs replied, “Because I had never done anything that constituted sexual harassment, and nobody had ever raised any question.”

Jacobs said he found out about the legal action from Gil Garcetti, the mayor’s father and former district attorney, who told him it was a possibility.

Garcetti, First Lady Amy Elaine Wakeland and Garcetti’s chief of staff, Ana Guerrero, never discussed with Jacobs anything about his behavior that they thought was inappropriate, Jacobs said.

However, Wakeland told Jacobs that “she thought sometimes I could come across as being a little bit mean,” Jacobs testified.

At one point, Jacobs was asked, “Did you ever say to Matt Garza, ‘You look good. You’ve been — have you been working out?’”

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“It’s possible that I would have said that he looked like he was working out,” Jacobs said. “I don’t remember.”

Jacobs also said that sometimes other people would grab his bicep and say, “ ‘You’ve been working out.’”

“And I could have done something like that with Matt,” Jacobs said.

Jacobs was also asked about whether he made a comment to the effect of, “Oh, that guy looks good,” when he was in the car with Garza. “I could have done that,” Jacobs said.

He was also asked whether he hugged Garza during the period between 2014-16.

“It’s possible,” Jacobs replied. Jacobs said that he “had the impression” that Garza was consenting to his hugs.

Jacobs was also asked if he has ever made jokes of a sexual nature in front of anybody from the mayor’s security detail. “Oh, it’s possible,” he replied.

He also conceded that he called his former aide “Chinaman” but said that he later apologized. The aide formerly worked for the city.

“We’ve had a lot of conversations, and we — it’s a terrible word. It’s a really terrible, terrible word,” Jacobs said. His aide accepted his apology and that the two remain friends, Jacobs added.

The Times on Thursday asked a judge to make public testimony in Garza’s lawsuit. Attorney Dan Laidman, representing the newspaper, argued there is “overriding public interest” in the litigation.

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