First dismissing complaint of sex assault at DNC, Philly DA office begins investigation

Delegates to the National Democratic Convention settle in for night one. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Delegates to the National Democratic Convention settle in for night one. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

The Philadelphia district attorney’s office is investigating a private criminal complaint filed by a delegate alleging she was sexually assaulted during the Democratic National Convention last month.

Initially, the woman said, the district attorney’s office told her that prosecutors would not pursue the claim, a decision that put the incident in the national spotlight.

Gwen Snyder, 30, who lives in Philadelphia and was a delegate for U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, claimed a fellow delegate asked her for a hug at a hotel bar around 2 a.m. one night of the convention, and she half-heartedly agreed. She said the man then sexually assaulted her.

Snyder said she was vaguely acquainted with the man before the incident. 

When she reported it to the city prosecutors, she said, detectives told her it would make a weak case.

“The main reason that they weren’t going to prosecute was that the guy was drunk at the time. And while they were clear on the fact that I didn’t give consent, a jury wouldn’t be convinced whether he knew I didn’t give consent,” Snyder said.

A representative of the district attorney’s office denied that, saying its investigators just explained to Snyder what it would take for a claim to prevail in court.

After Snyder’s case attracted national attention, the office reversed course and decided to investigate further.

Cameron Kline, an office spokesman, confirmed that prosecutors are currently looking further into the matter.

Snyder, who said she is encouraged that prosecutors are now investigating, said she hopes DNC organizers are taking notice and will implement measures to ensure women feel safe. For instance, she said, the convention could have had a sexual assault hotline.

After what happened, “I had to see the guy every day. At breakfast, at lunch, on the floor. That there are processes where, if the complaint is credible, the survivor isn’t being retraumatized every time by the presence of the attacker,” Snyder said.

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