Women sue former Franklin Manor co-owner over alleged sexual assault, exploitation

Hillsborough County

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — 8 On Your Side has obtained a copy of a 21-page complaint alleging sexual battery and exploitation by the former co-owner of Franklin Manor, a popular downtown Tampa establishment that has since closed as a result of a controversial social media post by that former co-owner.

Three women, identified in court paperwork as Jane Doe 1, Jane Doe 2 and Jane Doe 3, filed suit in Hillsborough County court. All three women live in Florida.

Lanfranco Pescante and The Nocturnal Group LLC, operator of Franklin Manor, are named as defendants.

According to the lawsuit, “on or about December 15, 2016, Pescante, in the course and scope of his employment, in furtherance of Franklin Manor’s business interests, and on the premises owned and operated as Franklin Manor, induced Jane Doe 1, to engage in sexual acts through coercive means in exchange for preferential treatment, including preferential sections or tables within the night club. Defendant’s actions consisting of intentional, harmful, unwanted and offensive sexual contact upon her person,” the paperwork reads.

Jane Doe 1, the paperwork says, has suffered psychological, physical and emotional injuries.

Regarding the company and establishment, Jane Doe 1 claims “defendants breached duties by failing to protect the Plaintiff, Jane Doe 1, from sexual coercion and lewd and lascivious acts committed by their agent, Lanfranco Pescante,” the suit says.

The suit shows that David Anderson, also a co-owner, “should have known that Pescante was unfit for the managerial duties assigned, did not exhibit appropriate boundaries with women, had the propensity to engage in inappropriate behavior with females and female employees, and/or posed a risk of perpetrating inappropriate coercive behavior on Plaintiff, Jane Doe 1.”

The paperwork says Anderson should have known that Pescante was unfit and a threat to the women under his supervision.

Regarding Jane Doe 2, the suit says: “On or about March 16, 2017, Pescante and Jane Doe 2, attended a Tampa Bay Lightning game together at Amalie Arena. Throughout the event Defendant, Pescante, was adamant that Plaintiff Jane Doe 2, continue to drink, frequently purchasing alcoholic drinks and shots, and coercing Plaintiff to ingest them despite her reluctance and growing impairment. After the game ended, Plaintiff, Jane Doe 2, reluctantly returned to Defendant’s apartment upon the promise that she would have a safe place to sleep and would not need to drive home. While inside Defendant’s apartment Defendant proceeded his advances to undress Plaintiff despite her pleas stating, “NO!,” and trying to physically hold her legs closed while Defendant unrelentingly attempted to coerce Plaintiff, Jane Doe 2, into removing her clothes. At some point during the assault, Plaintiff began to succumb to the effects of the alcohol on her system and lost consciousness. Plaintiff, Jane Doe 2, awoke naked next to the Defendant in the nude as well and came to the realization that the Defendant had raped her after she was incapable of consenting. Defendant, committed sexual battery upon Jane Doe 2 consisting of intentional, harmful, unwanted and offensive sexual contact upon her person.”

Jane Doe 2, the suit explains, has suffered mental anguish as a result of the sexual assault allegations.

Jane Doe 3, an employee at Franklin Manor, claims Pescante coerced her to go to a party with him, or he would cause negative repercussions at work, the suit claims.

“Pescante, in the course and scope of his employment, in furtherance of Franklin Manors’ business interests, and on the premises owned and operated as Franklin Manor, began his scheme to exploit Jane Doe 3, to engage in sexual acts through coercive means in exchange for preferential treatment, utilizing alcohol from the Franklin Manor premises. Defendant’s actions consisting of intentional, harmful, unwanted and offensive sexual contact upon her person,” the suit says.

The lawsuit calls Franklin Manor and its managing company “negligent” by allowing the alleged actions to occur.

The three women, who opted to remain anonymous in the suit, demand a jury trial. They are represented by attorney Joseph G. Alvarez of the Matassini Law Firm in Tampa.

8 On Your Side first reported the controversial social media post by Pescante in June, where he wrote “just shoot them all,” an apparent reference to protesters in Tampa following the death of George Floyd.

Hours later, Pescante stepped down from his position.

Then, in a stunning move, celebrity chef Fabio Viviani severed ties with all Tampa restaurants he was once affiliated with following the comments by Pescante.

8 On Your Side is in the process of attempting to contact Pescante for comment on the lawsuit.

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