Top NY lawyer vows to fight ex-employee’s sexual harassment lawsuit

Cnaan Liphshiz

(JTA) — A high-profile New York attorney fighting a sexual harassment lawsuit denied allegations that he told a receptionist seeking employment at his office to strip, have sex with him and have herself checked for venereal diseases.

Sunny J. Barkats, 42, who is Jewish and a board member of American Friends of Likud Young Leadership, on Thursday denied the allegations of Denisse Villalta, 21, one day after she sued him, alleging he told her to strip and have sex with him on two separate occasions during and after a job interview, the New York Daily News reported.

He issued the denial at his Midtown office, flanked by his wife, Elana, the daily reported.

“I cannot let this claim go unchallenged,” he said. “I do not know why this young woman chose to lie, but I believe in God and justice and I have done nothing to warrant this action.” He added that he was considering a countersuit.


Barkats denied sexually harassing Villalta. He admitted to meeting Villalta, but said the interview never took place. The head of human resources interviewed her, he said.

Villalta’s lawsuit says he told her that “she now belonged to him and that she would be required to have a threesome with him and his wife,” according to the Daily News. She also claimed he choked and threatened her during a second sexual encounter a day after the first interview, the court papers say.

According to The Sun, a British tabloid, Villalta filed a law suit on Wednesday against the Manhattan legal firm for the alleged incident in October 2014.

Villalta never returned to work the following day, the suit claims, prompting Barkats to send her threatening text messages, including a photo of him holding a steak knife.

Barkats is a founding partner of JSBarkats PLLC. His company CV states he was educated in France and that he is a native speaker of French and Hebrew. In recent weeks, Barkats urged friends and followers on Facebook to donate money for the defense of Elor Azaria, an Israel Defense Forces soldier facing manslaughter charges for killing an unarmed Palestinian terrorist in Hebron last month.

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