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‘He preys on vulnerable women’: Queens Assemblyman Ardila accused of sexual assault, issues apology

Assemblyman Juan Ardila, who represents the western Queens neighborhoods of Sunnyside, Woodside, Long Island City, Ridgewood and Maspeth, speaking at a candidate forum in 2022 (Photo by Michael Dorgan)

March 14, 2023 By Christian Murray

Freshman Assemblyman Juan Ardila, who represents western Queens, faced political fallout Tuesday after being accused of sexual assault by two women—allegations that the lawmaker did not refute when asked for comment.

Ardila, who first took office in January after winning a vacant 37th District assembly seat last year, allegedly targeted two women at a party in October 2015. The party took place inside a Manhattan apartment and was attended by Fordham University students and alumni.

One of the victims, who reached out to Queens Post and requested anonymity, said that Ardila “got physical” with her – and was “touching her” — while she was drunk on a couch at the party. The woman, who was 21 at the time, said Ardila then tried to drag her into the bathroom before a friend intervened.

Meanwhile, another woman that night provided a statement saying that Ardila pulled her into the bathroom a short time later, before exposing himself and then groping her. The woman allegedly then ran out of the bathroom.

The women were both seniors at Fordham University’s Lincoln Center campus at the time of the party. Ardila had graduated from the university in the spring and had just started working for Brad Lander, who was a councilmember at the time. Neither woman had ever spoken to Ardila prior to the night of the party.

Ardila, who was endorsed by progressives such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and State Sen. Jessica Ramos in his race last year, issued a statement late last night expressing regret for his actions. The statement came shortly after he told the Queens Chronicle that he had no knowledge of the alleged incidents.

“I apologize for my behavior,” Ardila said in his statement. “I have spent time reflecting and I hope to prove that I have matured since college. I’m committed to learning from this and I am able to demonstrate my own personal growth.”

Not convinced by apology

But the victim who contacted Queens Post wasn’t buying Ardila’s statement after it was read to her.

“I find Juan’s statement to be deeply troubling and dismissive of the harm he has caused me and others. His apology—which comes on the heels of his initial denial—rings insincere,” she said. “He blames the assault on youthful indiscretion during college (although he had graduated at the time of the incident) and I find this both dismissive and insulting. Sexual assault is a serious crime, and it is not something that can be excused or explained away by age or circumstances.”

The woman, who moved to Long Island City last month, said that she only decided to go public with her ordeal when she discovered that Ardila was an assemblymember—and the one who represented her area.

“The public deserves to know about his past,” she said, noting that she has reached out to several local news outlets about the incident.

She also said she did a series of online searches and was upset that he was able to convince several progressive women to support him.

Ardila with Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio Cortez during his campaign in 2022.

“I saw a photo of him next to AOC—who is someone who I love and is a hero to me. He is standing right next to her and she is publicly endorsing him. It shocked me seeing that,” she said.

She hopes that when AOC and other progressive women who endorsed him—such as Ramos, Councilmember Tiffany Cabán and Assemblymember Catalina Cruz—learn about this incident they will think differently and retract their endorsements.

“I want them to read my story and decide what they want to do…but I would imagine that AOC wouldn’t have been standing next to him if she knew what he had done.”

The woman said she wants Ardila to step down from office.

“I am calling for Juan Ardila to resign as an assemblymember and would like to see the organizations and elected officials who have publicly supported Juan publicly retract their support.”

Taken advantage

The incident took place at a party attended by about 20 people, the woman said. She said that she knew virtually everyone there, although had never spoken to Ardila prior to the gathering and nor had her friends.

She said that toward the end of the night she had passed out on a couch and Ardila was lying next to her.

“I was the drunkest person there,” she said. “I remember him being very close to me. I remember him being physical with me,” she said, adding that he was touching her all over.

“My friend then saw him dragging me from the living room into the bathroom and I was stumbling around.”

At that point the friend, who was sober, stepped in and intervened before anything further may have taken place.

The friend backed up the account, telling the Queens Chronicle: “I saw him leading her towards, I assumed, the bathroom…He was definitely taking her from the living room to somewhere else,” the friend said. “I grabbed her arm along the way, and I said something like, ‘No, she’s drunk.”

The next day when she and her friends were discussing the incident, they learned that Ardila also targeted another woman at the party.

The woman, who also didn’t want to disclose her name, shared her account via a text message that was provided by the victim who reached out to Queens Post.

“It happened towards the end of the night,” the woman wrote. “We were standing in a group by the door when he said come here, and pulled me into the bathroom. What felt like 0.2 seconds later we were in the bathroom with the door closed and he was kissing me. When I realized what was happening I pulled away, looked down, and he’d already taken his penis out and was stroking himself….I don’t remember exactly what I said but suddenly I felt very sober and basically just busted out of the bathroom.”

Contact on Facebook

The ugly episodes came to light after the first victim discovered an old Facebook message last week that had been sent by Ardila the day after the October 2015 party.

The message had not been read, since it was in a mailbox for messages sent from Facebook users whom she was not friends with. She combed through about 50 unread messages and saw his.

The message read: “Hey, what’s up? Had a good night the other night. Wanna meet up sometime?”

Ardila, however, did successfully contact her when he sent her a message in January 2018 via Instagram during the height of the #MeTooMovement. He apologized for the incident.  It was the first time she had heard from him since the 2015 encounter.

“Needless to say I was a jerk (to say the least) and I wanted to reach out to apologize for that night,” Ardila wrote. “Anyways I hope all is well and that you enjoyed the holidays. I wish you a very happy and healthy new year!”

The woman responded: “Thanks Juan. That means a lot.”

Ardila then continued the conversation saying, “How is everything going.” She then responded saying “LMAO you should have stopped with your ‘apology’” and then blocked him.

The woman said that she did not speak to authorities in 2015 nor Fordham University saying the incident was too traumatic.

She said that she is only speaking out now because Ardila is a public official.

“If he did what he did to me, when he was a nobody, image what he could do to someone now that he has political influence,” she said. She also calls him a hypocrite: “He preys on vulnerable women and then goes on Twitter, and he says: ‘Happy International Women’s Day…he’s an opportunist.”

Pol’s previous troubles

This is not the first time Ardila has been mired in controversy.

The NY Post reported in 2021 that he made a series of derogatory comments on Facebook from 2009 to 2011 about Asians, gays, women, and Jews while he was a teenager.

When the Queens Post asked Ardila about the Facebook posts during a candidate forum last year, he didn’t directly answer the question and instead told the audience that he had been endorsed by several progressive leaders and is running on a campaign of inclusivity.

“I am running on a campaign that focuses on inclusivity, diversity and progressive politics for western and central Queens,” he said. He then went on to say:

“I am honored to be supported by City Council Member Tiffany Cabán. I am honored to be supported by Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and I have been endorsed by the Lesbian and Gay Democratic Club of Queens … all champions of the progressive space and all champions fighting for an inclusive Queens that works for everyone.”

Ardila was also caught in controversy last year when it was discovered that the vehicle he drives had racked up nearly 30 traffic violations between 2018 to 2022. When he was asked about it, he said: “I don’t have a car.”

Ardila with State Senator Jessica Ramos, Councilmember Jennifer Gutierrez, Queens Borough President Donovan Richards and Assemblymember Catalina Cruz during his campaign in 2022.

This story was updated at 3:20 p.m.

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