Sunday, February 27, 2005

Third Woman Sues Over Koko's Breast Obsession

Another former employee of the Gorilla Foundation has filed a lawsuit saying that she was repeatedly forced to partially disrobe in front of Koko the "talking" ape.

Redwood City resident Iris Rivera, 39, revealed her breasts to Koko seven or eight times in a two-month period last summer, according to a suit filed in San Mateo County Superior Court this week -- seven days after a similar legal claim from two San Francisco women who also had worked for the internationally known Woodside nonprofit.

Unlike Nancy Alperin and Kendra Keller, who ignored foundation President Francine Patterson's pressure to expose themselves, Rivera acquiesced.

"She took it as a disagreeable duty of her employment," said Rivera's lawyer, Michael Adams, in a phone interview.

Redwood City attorney Todd Roberts, representing the Gorilla Foundation, said, "We're confident there's no merit to either of these lawsuits. We are not going to dignify the allegations with a response."

He said the foundation's position was exactly the same as the statement posted on its Web site in regard to last week's lawsuit.

"We unequivocally deny the hurtful allegations of the lawsuit and intend to vigorously defend the case through trial, if necessary," the statement said in part.

Rivera was hired as an administrative assistant in February 2004 but wasn't introduced to Koko until June.

"To Rivera's shock and surprise, Patterson informed Rivera that Koko was communicating by sign language that 'she wants to see your nipples,' " the suit alleged. "When Rivera expressed her incredulity at the apparent request, Patterson pressured Rivera to comply, telling her, 'Everyone does it for her around here' and telling Koko to 'calm down' and 'just give her time.'

"Rivera then reluctantly raised her T-shirt briefly to reveal her bra, but Rivera admonished her that Koko 'wants to see the nipples (italicized in the suit).' Rivera grudgingly complied. Patterson then exclaimed, 'Oh look, Koko, she has big nipples.' "

The sessions ended in August, Adams said, after what he described as a particularly unsettling encounter.

Story here.

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