CNN Exclusive: Conservative bigwig Matt Schlapp agrees to harsh plea deal to drop sex-assault lawsuit
CNN Exclusive: Conservative bigwig Matt Schlapp agrees to harsh plea deal to drop sex-assault lawsuit


The Republican operative who accused American Conservative Union Chairman Matt Schlapp of sexual assault last year has received a substantial financial settlement in exchange for dropping his lawsuit against Schlapp, multiple sources familiar with the matter told CNN.

The $480,000 settlement was paid to Carlton Huffman through an insurance policy, according to a source familiar with the details. Schlapp’s legal team did not return a call for comment when asked about the financial settlement, but said Tuesday that Huffman had withdrawn the case and Schlapp maintained he was exonerated.

“I have maintained my innocence from the beginning,” Schlapp said in a statement. “Our family has been attacked, especially by a left-wing media that is focused on destroying conservatives, regardless of truth and facts.”

Schlapp’s attorneys also released a statement from Huffman whose language was part of their private settlement.

“The requests made in my lawsuits were the result of a complete misunderstanding, and I am sorry that the lawsuit caused pain to the Schlapp family,” Huffman said, according to that statement. “Neither Schlapps nor ACU paid me anything to dismiss my claims against them.”

But multiple sources familiar with the charges and legal proceedings told CNN that Huffman actually received a financial settlement through an insurance company.

When reached for comment, Huffman told CNN, “By law, I’m only allowed to say five words, and that’s ‘We’ve resolved our differences.’ Those are the only five words I have a legal right to say.

His attorney, Tim Hyland, also declined to comment on any terms of a financial settlement or other details of the case, saying only, “The parties have resolved their differences.”

Asked if there was a settlement, a spokesman for Schlapp’s legal team, Mark Corallo, told CNN: “We refer you to Mr. Huffman’s statement.”

Schlapp initially touted the end of the case on social media with a link to a Washington Examiner article headlined “CPAC’s Matt Schlapp acquitted in assault case, accuser apologizes.” The post includes a pointer and finger emoticon pointing at the headline. The original story is still online, but Schlapp’s tweet has since been deleted.

The original lawsuit filed by Huffman against Schlapp sought over $9 million in damages.

Schlapp heads ACU, the organization most widely known for organizing the Conservative Political Action Conference, known as CPAC. Schlapp and the group occasionally clashed with Donald Trump before he was elected president in 2016, but have since become fierce loyalists. After serving in the George W. Bush White House as director of policy affairs, Schlapp took over ACU in 2014. His wife, Mercedes Schlapp, who was also named in the lawsuit, served as Trump’s communications director for nearly two years, starting in 2017 until 2019

At the time of the alleged assault, Huffman was working for the Georgia Republican Party and Republican Herschel Walker’s Senate campaign. Huffman told CNN that Schlapp performed unwanted sexual acts, including groping and groping his groin without consent, on the way back from two bars in the Atlanta area on Oct. 19, 2022. Schlapp then allegedly invited Huffman, on who was tasked with driving the ACU chairman to join him in his hotel room. Huffman said he had declined the offer and hours later reported the incident to senior campaign staff.

The case was due to go to court in early June. By agreeing to the deal now, Schlapp and his attorneys prevented the release of potentially damaging testimony, including testimony from Charlie Gerow, a former CPAC vice chair and ACU board member who expressed serious concerns about Schlapp’s conduct in his letter to departure. like two witnesses who had previously accused Schlapp of a sex crime.

Schlapp will also be spared having to testify in open court.

In addition, the settlement resulted in new testimony from numerous witnesses to be deposed, including former staffers from Walker’s 2022 Senate campaign and other witnesses with similar knowledge at the time of the alleged assault.

A former Walker campaign staffer told CNN he did not believe the settlement exonerated Schlapp.

“To my knowledge, the facts have never been disputed,” a spokesman for Walker’s campaign said. “I had no indication that Carlton fabricated his story then or now. Matt (Schlapp) knew me well enough to call me, he never called me,” to dispute Huffman’s claims.

Another source who has been in contact with Huffman said the case would not be dismissed without a financial settlement.

“He wouldn’t abandon it, his name and reputation were already public, he was prepared to go to court,” the source said. “I know (Huffman) definitely got paid.”

During the trial, Huffman’s personal conduct came under scrutiny.

In March 2023, it was revealed that Huffman himself had been accused of sexual assault. According to court documents filed in Raleigh, North Carolina, the two alleged victims, women ages 19 and 22, said Huffman performed unwanted sexual acts on them.

Huffman denied the allegations and no criminal charges were filed.

A source familiar with the conversations taking place at ACU during the case against Schlapp was first filed that several co-workers encouraged Schlapp to use his homeowner’s insurance policy to pay a settlement, but Schlapp resisted, telling them he was concerned it would cause his premiums to increase.

Asked why Schlapp ultimately settled, the source told CNN they believe Schlapp and his wife “didn’t want it to go to trial, they just didn’t want the testimony that was going to come out.”

“It’s no excuse,” the source said, “if you paid the guy.”

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