Palantir co-founder Joe Lonsdale has filed a defamation lawsuit against Ellie Clougherty, a former girlfriend who last month accused him of sexually assaulting and abusing her during a year-long relationship that took place while she was a Stanford University undergraduate.
Lonsdale, a Stanford alumnus, is suing Clougherty for $75,000 in damages, alleging that after they broke up in February 2013 she launched a "smear campaign" that caused significant "harm to his profession and occupation, expenses from responding to the statements, harm to his reputation, and shame, mortification, and hurt feelings," the lawsuit reads. He also denies all sexual-assault charges in the lawsuit.
Clougherty's lawsuit, filed Jan. 27, alleges that their relationship became abusive after Lonsdale "continuously and systemically subjected Ms. Clougherty to repeated and incessant sexual assaults and abuse, employing psychological manipulation and coercion in order to confuse, isolate, and otherwise disorient Ms. Clougherty from appreciating the true danger of her situation," the lawsuit reads.
As a result, Clougherty became "damaged and injured physically, emotionally, and financially," and suffered from "pain, anxiety, depression, severe emotional distress, embarrassment, ridicule, and PTSD, as well as loss of health, future relationships, income, employment, and future career benefits and earning potential," according to the lawsuit.
The day after she filed her lawsuit, a website emerged joelonsdalestatement.com in which Lonsdale describes Clougherty as "disturbed" and "vengeful" and indicates his intent to file a defamation lawsuit. In the statement, he writes that all allegations she has made against him are "100 percent fiction."
Lonsdale's counterclaim too characterizes Cloughtery as psychologically unstable, spinning a very public "appalling web of lies" to friends, members of the Stanford University community and the chief investment officer of a possible investor in one of his business ventures, who declined to participate in the venture because of what Cloughtery said, according to the lawsuit.
"Since Mr. Lonsdale ended their relationship nearly two years ago, Ms. Clougherty has repeated her fabricated accusations to numerous people at Stanford, to Mr. Lonsdale's friends and social acquaintances, and to his business colleagues, causing serious damage to Mr. Lonsdale's reputation," the lawsuit reads. "Worse yet, through her inflammatory lies, Ms. Clougherty is seeking to capitalize on the serious and highly-politicized issue of sexual assault against women on college campuses, and by doing so undermines and discredits legitimate claims of sexual assault."
Lonsdale, who co-founded Palo Alto software company Palantir and later, venture-capital firm Formation 8, first met Clougherty in New York in 2011. About a year later, the two interacted as part of an entrepreneurship class at Stanford that paired students with alumni mentors.
They began their year-long relationship in February of 2012, and the lawsuit provides numerous excerpts of email communication between the two showcasing the course and nature of the relationship. Some emails are flirtatious and light-hearted; others are emotional, with Clougherty disclosing an eating disorder and claims that she had suffered sexual abuse numerous times before meeting him, starting when she was working as a teenage print model and including several men on the Stanford campus, according to the lawsuit.
Lonsdale ended the relationship in February of 2013, after which Clouhgtery complained to Stanford that Lonsdale had committed some form of sexual misconduct. The university began a Title IX investigation, which was conducted by an outside investigator, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit claims that Stanford did not inform Lonsdale of any details of Clougherty's allegations that formed the basis of its investigation, nor give him an opportunity to respond to any evidence against him. The university also did not have access to most of the email correspondence included in Lonsdale's counterclaim, according to the lawsuit.
"Mr. Lonsdale did not know how many times the misconduct allegedly occurred, or when, where, or how it took place. As such, Mr. Lonsdale did not have a meaningful opportunity to introduce evidence to defend himself during the investigation," the lawsuit reads.
Stanford eventually concluded that it was "more likely than not" that Lonsdale did engage in sexual harassment or sexual misconduct. Under university policy, adjudicators for sexual assault or violence cases must meet a lower standard for proof -- a "preponderance of evidence" that the offense was, more likely than not, committed, rather than a higher "clear and convincing" evidence standard.
Lonsdale is in the process of appealing Stanford's decision, which also includes a 10-year ban from campus.