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Million-dollar lawsuit filed against former Mayra Flores staffer for sexual assault

 Aron Peña
Aron Peña for Texas/Facebook
Aron Lionel Peña III.

A lawsuit filed in an Hidalgo County District Court on Wednesday alleges that Aron Peña III, former District Director for Mayra Flores’ congressional office, sexually assaulted a woman who recently graduated from high school.

Cadence Vaughan, a member of the Hidalgo County Teen Republicans group, details in the lawsuit an incident where Peña forced her to kiss him and touched her without consent while driving her home from an event in July. This occurred after a year of “stalking and unrequited advances” while Vaughan was still in high school. Vaughan is seeking up to $1 million in damages.

Peña has previously denied the allegations reported by Texas Public Radio, saying in a statement the allegations were politically motivated. He denied Vaughan’s story and said the interaction was consensual. He has not responded to subsequent requests for comment.

Vaughan’s lawyer, Javier Peña (no relation to Aron Peña’s family) dismisses Aron’s claims, saying he has messages and more evidence that allegedly shows a pattern of sexually abusive and inappropriate behavior.

“I think everyone is going to see what kind of liar he is, once they see the actual messages he sent, not just to Cadence, but to the other girls,” Javier Peña said.

The lawsuit states that Peña “has a long and well-known history of harassment and assault of young girls.” The suit goes on further to say that complaints against Peña for sexual harassment, verbal and physical abuse, assault and intimidation began in 2010. But Texas Public Radio has evidence of complaints as far back as 2008.

Aron Lionel Peña III, a former district director for Congresswoman Mayra Flores’ congressional office and Texas GOP staffer, has been accused of sexual harassment from multiple women — including some who work in GOP organizations and campaigns. Peña denies the allegations.

TPR has previously reported on the interaction between Vaughan and Peña and numerous other allegations made by former staffers, interns, and former romantic partners throughout Peña’s career, including illicit Snapchat and text messages Peña sent to staffers, abusive workplace and domestic violence behavior and physical sexual harassment and abuse towards staffers.

“I’ve handled a lot of corruption cases, but this is one of the most disgusting sets of facts of any investigation I’ve done pre-suit,” Javier Peña said. “It’s scary, it’s dark and no young girls should be exposed to this.”

Peña is the son of former state representative Aaron Peña, who is now running for a place on Texas’ 13th Court of Appeals. He is the brother of Hidalgo County GOP Chair Adrienne Peña-Garza.

The lawsuit accuses Peña-Garza of being aware of Peña’s behavior and “aiding [him] in perpetrating such acts by protecting him and giving him access to any young woman that sought to get involved in local politics involving her organization, the Hidalgo County GOP.”

Peña-Garza did not respond to requests for comment.

Lawsuit PDF by Dan Katz on Scribd

Peña-Garza was confronted this year by members of the Hidalgo County GOP about Peña’s actions against Vaughan and other incidents. The members recorded the interaction. They requested that Peña-Garza keep Aron away from them. She told the members that she couldn’t keep him away from the organization because he was the only person capable of data entry for their software programs.

“I don't need to tell him to come [to the meetings], but who’s going to do it?” Peña-Garza told the women.

Javier Peña says that the Peña family’s refusal to address the complaints against Aron were purposeful.

“As a family, [the Peña’s] should’ve done something, as a party they should’ve done something,” he said. “At no level or layer of their soul did they think it was appropriate to protect these little girls. They’re only looking at what’s the political benefit.”

The lawsuit says the Hidalgo County GOP is attempting to intimidate those who have spoken out against Peña’s alleged behavior. The lawsuit goes on to say that the Peña’s are dismissing the allegations as politically motivated, which Javier Peña denies.

“This isn't a political attack,” he said. “You know, they're all suspicious about the timing of [the victims speaking out]. He's the one who chose the time to assault this girl. We didn't create the situation, he did. He can't set that fire and then complain that his house is burning down."

On Thursday, Monica De La Cruz told Vaughan and another member of the Hidalgo County GOP they were banned from working with the campaign because they spoke out against Aron Peña, according to Vaughan’s attorney. A spokesperson for De La Cruz’s campaign denied the incident occurred, saying De La Cruz never spoke with Vaughan or the other member about Peña's case.

Aron Peña and Adrienne Peña-Garza will have 20 days to respond to the lawsuit.

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Gaige Davila is a journalist based in the Rio Grande Valley. He was TPR's Border and Immigration Reporter from 2021-2024.