Sunday, September 5, 2004

Accuser says Allen advised 'lie and deny'


Collins: Threats persisted

By Sharon Coolidge
Enquirer staff writer

Collins
Rebecca Collins, an assistant prosecutor for Hamilton County, photographed in her attorney's downtown office.
(Gary Landers/The Enquirer)
Rebecca Collins said during her 3 1/2-year sexual affair with Hamilton County Prosecutor Mike Allen, he often reminded her of his motto: "Lie and deny."

Collins - the woman at the center of the sex scandal that has rocked Hamilton County politics and ignited nearly two weeks of accusations and denials - said if Allen was ever caught doing something improper his first line of defense was either to lie or deny it. She took that mean that if she ever exposed their affair, he would deny it ever happened.

"He says: 'I always get what I want,' " Collins said in an exclusive two-hour interview with The Cincinnati Enquirer Saturday. "He lives by that. He wanted me. He would risk his marriage, his career, his children, his family."

Collins, the 33-year-old assistant Hamilton County prosecutor who sued her married boss claiming he sexually harassed her, said the affair started with an unwanted sexual advance. But the encounter morphed into a relationship she once thought could have a future - in part because Allen often promised to marry her. But before he left his wife, Allen told Collins he wanted to make sure his wife was appointed a judge.

Even with those promises and secret meetings to have sex, their relationship was always clouded by the fact that Allen was her boss, she said.

Her first public comments came 13 days after Allen held a press conference to reveal the affair, which he called consensual. Collins agreed to the interview to tell her version of the affair and to unravel how she saw her relationship with Allen.

She never cried or wavered during the interview at her lawyer's downtown office that is across the street from the prosecutor's office.

After Allen's admission to the affair, which he called "the worst mistake of my life,'' Collins sued him, alleging she was sexually harassed and said Allen used his position to coerce her and then threatened to ruin her career if she stopped seeing him. The admission and her lawsuit prompted Allen's wife and Collins' ex-husband to comment on the affair. She seeks unspecified monetary damages, lost pay and benefits in the lawsuit, which also names the county commissioners as defendants.

Allen's lawyer, Michael Hawkins, has called the sexual harassment accusations "outrageous and false."

Hawkins said Saturday he did not want to debate Collin's comments:

"Getting into a debate with a liar, as anyone well knows, goes nowhere,'' he said.

He called her claims, both in the lawsuit and in an earlier demand to settle for $3 million, a diversion.

"It's an insult to women who have genuine sexual harassment complaints,'' Hawkins said.

'He's a lot of everything'

Collins said the relationship with Allen started in December 1999 when Allen came to her home. The signed correspondence between each other to mask their identities, she said. Collins used "YGR," which stood for "Your Girl Rebecca." Allen used "HD #81," which she said stood for Horn Dog and Allen's former Cincinnati police badge number, she said.

At least once they had sexual intercourse in his office during office hours, she said. And, later, when she tried to end the relationship, Allen relentlessly pursued her, she said.

"Mike was definitely in control; he likes control, he needs control," Collins said. "And I think that was the theme of our relationship. As long as he was in control, everything was OK."

When she resisted his advances, Collins said Allen would tell her to go to the fourth floor of the prosecutor's office, where Allen's name and title are on the wall in bright gold letters.

"Whose name is on the wall?" she claims he told her.

Collins started working as an intern in the prosecutor's office in June 1999, the summer after her first year of law school. She currently makes $43,800.

Her career goal, she said, was to be a criminal prosecutor.

She said her first assignment, working in the office's victim advocate unit on the fourth floor of the office was a disappointment.

One week after Collins started, Allen invited her to lunch at Plaza 600, which has since reopened as the swanky Bella on Walnut Street: "He was the boss; I didn't realize it was unusual for him to take an intern to lunch," she said.

Days later Collins was moved to the appellate division, which meant she would work on the same floor as Allen.

The following December, Allen called her at home and insisted on visiting her.

Collins said she was reluctant. Allen was married to Lisa Allen, then a Hamilton County Municipal Court magistrate. She thought he had been drinking. And, he was her boss.

Still, she agreed.

"He began making (sexual) advances," Collins said. "I said: 'No' repeatedly; 'I don't want to do this.'"

She walked room to room, trying to get away from him.

"I didn't know how to handle this situation," she said. "I was 28 years old, I was a first-year law student, an intern and he's literally chasing me around my house."

At one point, Collins said, Allen pinned her against the wall.

"He was literally begging me to have sex with him," she said. "I finally relented. I saw it as the only way to get him to leave."

She never reported the encounter to anyone, she said: "I knew I couldn't call anyone because he's the county prosecutor. I didn't know what else to do."

After that initial encounter, Collins said a relationship developed, but they were never on equal ground because Allen remained her boss. "The entire relationship is based on a power structure that is so out of whack that it was intolerable," she said.

Shortly into their relationship, Collins said Allen began telling her he loved her and wanted to be with her.

"Eventually I got caught up in it,'' she said. "He's powerful, charming, demanding - he's a lot of everything."

Allen and Collins would split up, only to get back together, she said.

"It was me telling him I didn't want to continue, him insisting it continue," she said. "He said he wanted to be with me forever," she said. "There were times I thought that sounded OK. It was certainly better than the type of relationship we were in."

Through the first year of the relationship, Collins said Allen promised to leave his wife and marry her. But before he could leave his wife, he wanted to arrange for her to become a judge, Collins said.

"He would say: 'I really want to leave, and I'm going to as soon as I get her this job (judgeship),' '' Collins said. " 'Just let me get her this job and then I won't feel so guilty about leaving her.' "

Because Allen didn't want his wife to find out about the affair, they would meet for sex at the office before work or after work. Always, she said, when no one else was around.

Allen, elected to his $110,000 job, has denied that he violated any county policies or that he had sex with Collins in the office or on county time.

During a workday, though, Collins claims Allen would sometimes call her office 15 or 20 times. Although he said he wanted to end his marriage, Collins said he never acted on that promise.

"By the beginning of 2002, Allen had been promising Collins for weeks that he would leave his wife.

"He didn't know how to tell her; he didn't have the strength to tell her," Collins said, adding that Allen would sometimes say it would be easier if she told his wife.

By February 2001, he promised to tell his wife about the affair. But still he was unable.

So Collins said she left a package on Lisa Allen's car. In it was a letter Allen wrote to her and a tape of recent voice-mails Allen had left for Collins.

"I thought that's what he would have wanted me to do," Collins said.

Earlier this week, Lisa Allen said that's how she discovered the affair. She and Allen began marriage counseling but remained together, Lisa Allen said.

Six months later, Lisa Allen said, her husband came to her and admitted he was still seeing Collins.

This time, Lisa Allen has said she kicked him out of their Miami Township home.

A few weeks later, Lisa Allen said, her cell phone rang. Collins was on the other end.

It was Allen who made the call, Collins said. He just handed her the phone.

"During that conversation, Lisa and I discovered a number of lies he had been telling us."

Allen and Collins continued to see each other.

In February 2003, Gov. Bob Taft appointed Lisa Allen a municipal court judge. Although judges are appointed by a governor, they routinely consult with local party leaders. Allen is the former head of the Hamilton County Republican Party and a rising star in local and national Republican Party. Until two weeks ago, he served as chairman of the southern Ohio Bush-Cheney campaign for re-election.

That spring, Collins said she realized the relationship had to end. And she attempted to break up with Allen in May.

Collins said she craved a relationship with someone who could offer her more.

Allen made it difficult, she said. "He wouldn't leave me alone."

That summer she fell in love with Eric LeCount, the father of a young girl and her brother's roommate.

That relationship prompted Collins to tell Allen it was finally over.

But, she said, even as she planned her Nov. 1 wedding, Allen pursued her. He left messages for her saying that if she didn't return the call, "you'll have to find a new job."

At work, Collins said she was afraid to answer the phone, letting all calls go into her voice mail.

But she couldn't avoid Allen completely: He was still her boss.

So when Allen called her to his office in January 2004, she did as she was told.

"I ended up having sex with him," she said. "I felt very guilty. I vowed never to let that happen again."

But Allen didn't let up, she said.

In the following months, she says, Allen once mouthed the words, "I love you" as she passed him in the hall. On another occasion, he kissed her without consent on a stairwell.

In April 2004, Allen summoned her to his office and masturbated in front of her, she said.

Still, she was unsure about leaving. She needed the job and feared she wouldn't be able get a job practicing law elsewhere. And, she was also in the midst of divorcing her husband.

The breaking point came in July 2004.

Allen summoned her to his office and told her about a counseling session he and his wife had had the night before.

"I just said to him, 'What are you doing?' " Collins said. "You're the most selfish person I know. How could you be pursuing me and wanting a relationship with me when you know it would kill your wife - when you know what it would do to your family, your career, to me, to my career?"

She says she begged him to leave her alone and went back to her office.

Collins took time off and began setting up her own legal practice: "I felt like I had no other choice, that I couldn't stay there, I couldn't stay under his thumb, I had to escape him."

But during the process, she said that it dawned on her that she shouldn't be forced to leave the prosecutor's office. She returned to her job and hired a lawyer.

"I was so distraught that I was leaving my job, my profession, the job that I loved, the job that I wanted for so long, the job that I could see myself keeping as a life-time career, just to escape the clutches of this man who would not take no for an answer," she said.

She filed the lawsuit on Aug. 26. And while some have called for Allen to resign, she doesn't have an opinion on whether he should stay or go.

And although she continues to work at the prosecutor's office, Collins can't see a future for herself and her son in Hamilton County.

"I don't know how faraway I have to go to start over,'' she said. "But I'll be taking a serious step backward."

E-mail scoolidge@enquirer.com




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