HOLLAND, Mich. (WOOD) — John Conyers is the longest-serving member of the U.S. House, and until this week he was the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee until several women came forward to accuse him of sexual impropriety.
Among them is 77-year-old Deanna Maher.
Maher is retired and lives in a tidy Holland neighborhood where the kids call her “Granma D” and she spends most of her time tending her immaculate lawn.
But for the last several days, she has been in the national spotlight after she went public with accusations that start in 1997, when she worked in Conyer’s Detroit office and became the subject of unwanted sexual advances.
She said the first instance came in a Washington D.C. hotel room in 1997, when he came into her room and stripped down to his underwear as she huddled underneath her blanket.
Another incident came in 1998 when she was riding with the congressman to the Detroit Airport on I-94.
“When he was driving and he was feeling me on my lap and I’m pulling his hand away and he’s driving all over the road, because he’s a terrible driver,” Maher said.
She said that only ended when the car he was in was pulled over by a State Police Trooper, who let Conyers off without a ticket.
She said a fellow male staff member assaulted her, roughly kissing her — and she reported to staff, the marshal’s office, the FBI and nothing was done. Maher said she reported all of these incidents for years, but Conyer’s position protected him.
“I called him the king of Teflon — untouchable,” Maher said “It crosses both parties, they are in agreement.”
The fact that congressmen from both parties were protecting each other had her worried that nothing would ever be done.
“Quite frankly, I had given up, up until a couple weeks ago,” she said.
Maher said she went to work in the Detroit office of John Conyers hoping to work on issues important to her, including the environment and children.
“I worked for truth and justice,” Maher said. “What I was actually doing was setting John Conyers on a pedestal.”
She said working on staff for a U.S. Representative can be exciting and she had a chance to meet some very powerful and important people. But, she was disillusioned by what she saw as corruption and back-room deals.
And then she said she was repeated harassed and by Conyers and a member of his staff.
“It definitely is both black/white, Democrat and Republican that is going on, for sure — it is a culture,” she said.
Maher said the attitude is pervasive in Washington.
“It’s a joke, they’re playing games — this is just funny to them, they’re not worried — how about what Trump said?” Maher said. “You can do whatever you want and he was telling the truth — and so was Conyers.”
Since coming forward, she is now getting calls from media from around the nation at all hours of the day and night.
Even her own family has encouraged her to let it go.
“Truth must be told, truth, your integrity is important don’t ever compromise your integrity by not telling the truth,” she said.
She doesn’t want anyone else to go through this, and said it has been very painful to go through.
She said the work being done by Democratic Congresswoman Jacki Speier to mandate education for congress members and their staffs.
“Now, do you have to be educated to keep your hands to yourself and not touch someone else’s private parts?” she asked.
Nevertheless, she is encouraged that Conyers and others are being held accountable.
“It’s the first sliver of encouragement, but I don’t think it’s a done-deal, yet,” she said.