Lewd Texts, Unwanted Touching: Woman Details Allegations against Bowser Deputy

Washington Post photo by Marvin Joseph
John Falcicchio, deputy mayor for planning and economic development, and Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) canvass the Adams Morgan neighborhood in March.

Content warning: This story includes graphic sexual language.


The meeting ended one night last September, and the aide accompanied her boss, John Falcicchio, to the street, where he offered to walk her to the Metro. Before they got there, Falcicchio asked if she wanted to grab dinner.

The aide agreed. As a recent hire still on probation, she was eager to have one-on-one time with a man whose two high-powered titles – chief of staff to D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) and deputy mayor – made him a towering figure in D.C. government.

Falcicchio led the way to the Crimson Whiskey Bar downtown, where the woman said he ordered them both whiskeys and told her, “You can’t tell your bosses we did this.” By midnight, after more whiskey and tequila, she was drunk and Falcicchio was taking her to his apartment, where she said he suddenly tried to kiss her.

In her first interview since Falcicchio’s abrupt resignation in March, the woman told The Washington Post that he twice sought to have sex with her at his apartment, including once when he masturbated in front of her. Over five months beginning in late September, she said, he texted her a video of himself masturbating and sent her lurid and explicit texts, some of which are described in this story.

The woman provided The Post screenshots of hundreds of electronic communications that she said she and Falcicchio exchanged, most of them through Snapchat, a messaging app, after that first encounter in his apartment. Among them are sexually charged and flirtatious messages she sent in return to Falcicchio. She said she never had sex with him but feigned interest to keep her job and to document his misconduct.

“I’m here to get at the truth and some of that exposes me in a way that’s uncomfortable,” said the woman, who is in her 20s and spoke to The Post over the course of four interviews for more than four hours. She agreed to be interviewed on the condition of anonymity because she said she fears retribution, as well as the damage she could cause her career by identifying herself publicly.

As Bowser’s $230,000-a-year chief of staff and deputy mayor for planning and economic development, a portfolio that made him the D.C. government’s second most powerful official, Falcicchio’s influence was unrivaled. He also was Bowser’s chief political operative, a role that evolved from the early 2000s when he helped her begin her rise from neighborhood activist to council member to three-term mayor. His abrupt resignation March 17 cost the mayor a key confidant and strategist at a time when she faces several daunting crises, including rising gun violence, warnings of declining tax revenue and an economically depressed downtown.

Falcicchio, 44, and his attorney, Grace Speights, did not respond to multiple requests for comment, including an eight-page list of questions seeking responses to specific details of the woman’s account. Falcicchio also “declined to participate in” the city’s investigation of the woman’s allegations, according to a summary of its findings.

Harlan Loeb, a senior counsel for Argyle, a public relations firm representing Falcicchio, said in an email to The Post that his client “is quite eager to respond” but is following advice from legal counsel to “defend himself only in the proper forum since legal proceedings are ongoing.” Loeb did not respond to follow-up questions.

The Mayor’s Office of Legal Counsel on June 17 released a summary of its investigation that substantiated the woman’s claim that Falcicchio harassed her. The MOLC was not able to substantiate other allegations of retaliation and bullying.

The MOLC is also investigating a second complaint against Falcicchio that was filed by another woman who works for the D.C. government. Both accusers are represented by lawyers Debra Katz and Kayla Morin, whose firm’s clients have included cheerleaders and other former employees of the Washington Commanders who accused team officials of sexual harassment. The attorneys declined to make the second complainant available for an interview or discuss the details of her case.

The first accuser is still employed by the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, the unit Falcicchio headed. She said she had used a second phone to photograph and preserve many of the messages she and Falcicchio exchanged on Snapchat because the app erases communications soon after they are sent. The woman acknowledged that she did not capture every message she and Falcicchio traded from late September until early March, meaning that those reviewed by The Post are an incomplete record of their exchanges.

In explaining the explicit messages she sent Falcicchio, the woman said she feared he would fire her or give her undesirable work assignments if she did not lead him to believe she was interested in him sexually. The vast difference in their power rankings – he was a senior official and she was a junior staffer with no employment guarantee after her 13-month contract expired – made her feel like she had to act like she was interested, she said.

“I thought initially, like, I can’t reject his advances,” she said. “I knew that I had to play the game with him to keep my job without giving him what he wanted, which was probably just to sleep with me and then discard me.”

In late October, Falcicchio wrote that he wanted her to perform oral sex on him. The woman responded, “Honestly I’d love to.” He replied that he liked the idea of “dominating” her. She then wrote: “You’re even better with words than I thought.”

Minutes later, he wrote: “Imagine this: you come over to my place in sweats. I strip you down. Throw you on the bed. Shove my hard dick in your mouth. Squeeze your nipples. Pull your hair. Dominate you. C– in your mouth. Send you home.”

The woman said she decided she needed the evidence of the texts – among dozens of sexually charged exchanges reviewed by The Post, many of which were crude and graphic – because she didn’t think anyone would otherwise believe her account of their encounters in his apartment. “I had to get him to say these things so it was documented,” she said.

Under D.C. law, an employee’s conduct can amount to “unlawful harassment regardless of” whether the alleged victim “submitted to or participated in the conduct.”

The woman’s allegations against Falcicchio, submitted in a letter from her attorney to the mayor on March 8, prompted Bowser to ask the MOLC to investigate. On June 17, a Saturday in the middle of a holiday weekend, the Bowser administration posted a summary of the probe’s results on an obscure city website without any announcement.

The woman said she learned of the summary’s release from social media after midnight, soon after the news broke, and felt blindsided. She also said the summary contained potentially identifying details about her employment that she had not anticipated.

“She did not handle it with care,” the woman said of Bowser’s release of the investigative findings. “She did not take into account how I could have felt.”

Bowser, at a news conference Wednesday, said she decided to release the findings immediately because “the public should have access to that information as soon as possible.” She said she was “completely devastated” by the allegations and declared Falcicchio’s behavior “wrong, period.”

The woman, who has taken no legal action against the city, said she decided to file a complaint not for monetary compensation but to ensure that Falcicchio is held accountable, along with anyone else in government who may have enabled him. She said she is more interested in keeping her job than in winning a financial settlement and hopes the disclosure of the report’s details – while possibly uncomfortable for her at work – will force needed change in the office’s culture.

“To me, what it came down to was does this man deserve his job and the power he has? The answer for me was no,” she said. “People should be getting ahead based on their merit, not based on whether they give the chief of staff what he wants sexually.”

The mayor’s legal counsel substantiated two of the woman’s eight complaints, finding that Falcicchio had “more likely than not” sexually harassed her with unwelcome physical advances and inappropriate messages. The office did not substantiate complaints that Falcicchio and his senior staff had bullied and retaliated against the woman for rejecting his advances.

The MOLC also investigated the woman’s allegation that 11 other current and former D.C. employees were rumored to have had sexual interactions with Falcicchio. Four of the women denied the allegation while seven did not participate in the investigation.

At the same time, the investigator found evidence that Falcicchio gave “preferential assignments to women he found attractive and used the workplace as a ‘dating pool,'” but did not conclude that those actions violated city policy.

Bowser declined to be interviewed, but a statement from her office said: “These allegations came as a shock to Mayor Bowser as she had no knowledge of these activities prior to receiving the allegations.”

An academic star in high school and college, the woman grew up on the East Coast and comes from a family that struggles financially – details she said she shared with Falcicchio on the night of their first encounter, as they drank at the Crimson Whiskey Bar, after which they stopped at a second place where they drank margaritas and tequila shots.

Her description of her background, she said, inspired Falcicchio to nickname her “Good Will Hunting” after the movie with the same title – or the acronym “GWH,” as he referred to her in texts. Falcicchio, she said, thought her combination of intelligence and financial hardship made her similar to Will Hunting, the movie’s lead character played by Matt Damon.

When they arrived at his apartment, Falcicchio, who is not married, invited her to join him on the couch, she said, where he removed her shoes and suddenly kissed her. “‘This can’t happen,'” she recalled telling him as she pushed him away and got up from the couch. Falcicchio tried to kiss her again, and asked her to sleep with him, a proposition she rejected even as she said she was “terrified” that turning him down could cause him to fire her.

“We can’t Lewinsky this s—,” she recalled telling him, referring to Monica Lewinsky, who encountered sexual advances from President Bill Clinton when she was a 22-year-old White House intern.

“‘You’re not an intern,'” Falcicchio replied, she said. “He grabs my face and he says, ‘Let someone take care of you for once.'” Falcicchio then kissed her again, she said, and exposed and kissed her chest. He also touched her between her legs “over” her clothes, she said.

“He asked me if I will take my clothes off and get into bed with him,” she recalled. “I refused. He asked me, ‘Why don’t you just sleep over?’ I said, ‘No, I don’t think that’s a good idea.’ . . . He says, ‘Will you go home and touch yourself and think of me?'”

When she left, Falcicchio ordered her an Uber. He later messaged her on Snapchat.

“I had so much fun,” he wrote. “Home safe?”

The following day, the woman spoke to a close friend, who, in an interview with The Post, described her as “feeling very uncertain and confused” and anxious about what the incident would mean for her job.

“I remember her saying he took off her shoes and I remember her saying that he kissed her,” said the friend, who, like three others interviewed by The Post who communicated with the woman soon after the encounter, spoke on the condition of anonymity to protect her privacy and their own. “She said that she pushed him away. I remember her saying she stood up at one point and said, you know, either ‘I think we should slow down’ or ‘I think we should talk about this.'”

The woman also described her discomfort to her mother and therapist and texted another friend, writing that she had kissed “someone/ someone kissed me who shouldn’t have, ” according to a screenshot of the text the friend shared with The Post. “Idk [I don’t know] what this means now, I never expected it, I tried to slow things down.”

In the months ahead, the woman would struggle to determine to whom in D.C. government she could report Falcicchio’s behavior. At the time, the office where the woman worked did not have a sexual harassment officer, as required by a 2017 mayor’s order, according to records obtained by The Post. City employees may file complaints with any sexual harassment officer at any D.C. agency, according to Vanessa Natale, deputy director of the MOLC.

Initially, the woman said, she believed her most prudent course was to speak to Falcicchio directly. She returned to his apartment Oct. 2, three days after the first incident, keeping her coat on after she arrived and staying in the kitchen.

“He was like, ‘Why are you coming in all serious?’ Like, ‘Calm down, take your coat off, relax,'” she said.

The woman said she sat on the couch with Falcicchio and was trying to persuade him that a sexual relationship was not in either of their best interests.

Falcicchio then tried to kiss her, she said.

“‘John, this is not working for me,'” she told him, she recalled. “And he was like: ‘Open your mouth some more. It’ll feel better.'”

He pressured her to take off her clothes and go into his bedroom, the woman said. She said she “relented,” explaining that she hoped that “taking my clothes off was a way to make the kissing stop.”

“Until you experience that firsthand, you really don’t know how you will respond,” she said. “You think you’re going to fight the person off and you just kind of, like, try to make the situation okay.”

Falcicchio took off his own clothes, she said, and told her to get into his bed. She said she complied. He started to masturbate and asked her to give him oral sex, she said. “I said, ‘No,’ that I didn’t think that was a good idea. He told me to pleasure myself. I did not.”

After Falcicchio ejaculated, the woman said, they watched “60 Minutes” on the couch together and then he “sent me on my way.”

Katz, the woman’s attorney, said in an interview that Falcicchio’s accuser is typical of “young women who are trying to navigate the workplace. They try to not anger the person who is harassing them.”

“Whether it looks like it’s playing along or whatever it looks like, this is not the point,” Katz said. “She should never have been put in that position.”

After the second incident, the woman called her mother, who told The Post that her daughter had said she went to Falcicchio’s apartment with the hope of “trying to talk to him.”

“He asks her to take off her clothes, and I’m going, ‘What?,'” her mother said. “And then he asked her to perform oral sex on him. . . . And then he masturbated in front of her, she told me.”

The woman also told her therapist about the incident when they met Oct. 11 and said that she had refused pressure from Falcicchio to have sex, according to the therapist, who had begun treating her in March 2022. The woman waived patient-client privilege to allow her therapist to speak to The Post.

On Oct. 12, the woman said, Falcicchio suggested in a Snapchat message shared with The Post that he would no longer call her by her nickname “GWH.” He said they should focus on work.

Falcicchio’s message, she recalled, made her anxious about her job security.

“So we’re done,” she wrote back. “John, I’m so sorry. I cared for you. This job means the world to me. Please don’t get rid of me.”

“Your job is good,” he replied. “You do great.”

The next day, the woman said, she was supposed to accompany Falcicchio at an event he was scheduled to attend, a responsibility that she described as a regular part of her job. At 6:29 p.m., she texted him that she was “patiently waiting here for whenever you arrive.”

“I went home,” Falcicchio wrote back, adding that he sent someone in his place.

A week later, she said, she was supposed to attend another event that Falcicchio was scheduled to attend. The night before, she texted him about the suggested attire. “You don’t have to cover that one. I’ll be ok,” Falcicchio wrote.

His instruction, she said, made her worry he was retaliating against her because she had refused his sexual advances. Her anxiety was compounded, she said, when her immediate supervisor told her to go to the event, seemingly in contradiction to what Falcicchio had texted the night before.

Colleagues told the woman they noticed that Falcicchio didn’t seem to want her there. “It was humiliating,” she said. “It makes you look like you’re not doing your job well.”

Later that night, after they had left the event, the woman said, Falcicchio messaged her on Snapchat that he saw her “checking me out” when he had arrived. The screenshot shows the message coming from “Gatsby,” a nickname inspired by the F. Scott Fitzgerald novel that the woman assigned to Falcicchio after he called her “Good Will Hunting.”

A couple of moments later, Falcicchio wrote, “Enough work talk on snap.” He then wrote that he was imagining having sexual intercourse with her.

Days later, on her birthday, she photographed their exchanges as she and Falcicchio sent each other sexually explicit texts.

“Just know even when I don’t say I want it, I want it,” she wrote at one point, after which he asked her to send him a photo and then texted her a photograph of his face.

“What I wanted for my birthday was to take shots with you and then make bad decisions,” she wrote.

“Skip to the bad decision,” he replied.

Screenshots she provided show that she sent him a video through Snapchat, but they don’t reveal the content of that video. The woman said she no longer had the video because it vanished soon after she sent it, an assertion The Post could not verify. The woman said she could not recall the video’s content, but she said she never shared nude images of herself with Falcicchio.

She told him she wasn’t wearing underwear and that she was aroused. He sent her a video of what she understood to be him masturbating. Included in the photos she provided The Post were two screenshots showing an erect penis that she said were from that video.

A few minutes later, she wrote: “I miss kissing you sometimes / And even just spooning with you on the couch.”

The woman said she had been referring to watching “60 Minutes” after their second physical encounter in Falcicchio’s apartment. She said she had not enjoyed the kissing or the spooning, but she wanted him to believe she did. She felt her job was increasingly precarious as she sensed Falcicchio’s circle turning against her and other women in the office vying for his attention.

“I felt that the way to keep my job was to win John over and to keep his interest and attention,” she said. “I engaged in banter with him to keep my job. I did that. That’s what happened. . . . But he still knew it was wrong. He knew. And it was wrong.”

Morin, the attorney working with Katz, said the woman’s case against Falcicchio is not as direct as a supervisor telling an employee “you must have sex with me or I’m going to fire you.” But he made submitting to his advances an implicit term of employment, the attorneys argued.

They said Falcicchio at times seemed to reward the accuser with positive attention. At other times, he and others loyal to him made her feel marginalized by excluding her from events and meetings, the attorneys said.

“Those kinds of things that may seem in isolation to be de minimis, they’re not,” Katz said. “They’re sending a strong signal in the workplace that this person is, you know, they’re on their way out and they’re discardable.”

One night, while she was in an Uber, the woman and Falcicchio texted about whether she should go to his apartment.

He told her he wanted her to perform oral sex on him, she said. Then, using an expletive, he suggested they have intercourse. “I want to dominate you,” he wrote.

“Let’s hang,” she answered, turning him down.

“Ugh,” he wrote.

Moments later, he told her to go home instead.

In January, the woman transferred to a different unit within the deputy mayor’s office because she was having difficulty with a colleague.

The woman had begun to question whether Falcicchio was influencing what she perceived as the colleague’s negative attitude toward her. She said the colleague at one point simultaneously praised her work while raising concerns about something unspecified, referring to it only as “you know what.” Because the woman spoke on the condition of anonymity, The Post could not interview her colleague about her claim.

The woman said she also began to hear office chatter that led her to believe she was not the only staffer whom Falcicchio had made sexual advances toward. She began to contemplate how to file a formal complaint against him. But she said she was anxious that Falcicchio, given his power, could block or otherwise undermine her.

The woman said that Falcicchio, after learning from others about her complaints against her colleague, told her that he had been hearing “‘that you’re still running your mouth'” about the colleague “‘in a way that is not productive.'” He advised her to focus on her work. She said she interpreted the advice as a warning that she could lose her job.

She began to see the dynamics of her relationship with Falcicchio as increasingly untenable, she said. “I was playing a role, and it’s like I couldn’t continue to keep up the act,” she said, adding that she felt as if any decision he made about her employment would be based on whether she continued to refuse to sleep with him or whether she submitted. “I couldn’t keep it up anymore.”

In February, the woman said, she began researching potential lawyers to represent her. On Feb. 23, she contacted Katz’s firm.

Two weeks later, on March 8. Katz detailed her client’s allegations in a six-page complaint to Bowser, with attachments that included examples of the sexually explicit messages and screenshots from the video he sent. Katz wrote that her client would “no longer tolerate a work environment that allows” the mayor’s closest adviser “to manipulate and abuse women with impunity” and that he “must be held accountable.”

Later that night, the woman said, Falcicchio messaged her on Snapchat.

“Happy International Women’s Day,” he wrote.

Nine days later, he resigned.