NEW YORK (AP) â€” One woman carried a ruler at FBI headquarters so she could smack James Hendricksâ€™ hands when he reached for her legs and breasts. Another went home shaken after he tugged on her ear and kissed her cheek during a closed-door meeting.
And when Hendricks went on to lead the FBIâ€™s field office in Albany, New York, in 2018, colleagues described him as a â€œskilled predatorâ€ who leered at women in the workplace, touched them inappropriately and asked one to have sex in a conference room, according to a newly released federal report obtained by The Associated Press.
Hendricks quietly retired last year as a special agent in charge after the Office of Inspector General â€” the Justice Departmentâ€™s internal watchdog â€” concluded he sexually harassed eight female subordinates in one of the FBIâ€™s most egregious known cases of sexual misconduct.
Hendricks was among several senior FBI officials highlighted in an AP investigation last year that found aÂ pattern of supervisors avoiding disciplineÂ â€” and retiring with full benefits â€” even after claims of sexual misconduct against them were substantiated.
The FBI said it could not discuss Hendricksâ€™ case but that it â€œmaintains aÂ zero-tolerance policyÂ toward sexual harassment and is committed to fostering a safe work environment where all of our employees are valued, protected and respected.â€
Hendricks, 50, who now writes a law enforcement blog, did not respond to messages seeking comment. He told investigators his accusers had either misinterpreted his actions or exaggerated his behavior, and that he was not sexually attracted to them.
â€œItâ€™s an ugly, ugly laundry list of things that were said, and thatâ€™s really hurtful to me and it really just disappoints me,â€ he was quoted as saying.
The details of Hendricksâ€™ sexual harassment â€” outlined in a 52-page report obtained under the Freedom of Information Act â€” have not previously been reported. The OIG blacked out Hendricksâ€™ name in the report, but he was identified by law enforcement officials familiar with his case.
Drawing on interviews with more than a dozen FBI officials, the report traces Hendricksâ€™ harassment to his time at FBI headquarters, where he served as a section chief in the Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate. He was tapped in 2018 to lead the Albany field office, where he supervised more than 200 agents and other FBI employees. Six of his accusers were in Albany; two were in Washington.
Some colleagues chalked up Hendricksâ€™ behavior to his being a â€œSouthern gentlemanâ€ â€” he served as a police officer in western Kentucky before joining the bureau in 1998 â€” but others said he routinely crossed the line, became â€œsuper giddyâ€ around women and was â€œincapable of stopping himselfâ€ from harassing them.
Co-workers told investigators he surrounded himself with a â€œharemâ€ of attractive women, was fixated on high heels and breasts, and was known for gawking at female agents as they walked down the hallway.
In office conversations that involved women, Hendricks would shift his â€œbody posture and head angle to stare at their breasts and bodies in a manner that was calculated to avoid detection,â€ the OIG report says. Male and female agents alike told investigators they endured this â€œas a condition of simply interacting with their boss.â€
Even Hendricksâ€™ male colleagues considered him â€œcreepyâ€ and one described how he simulated masturbation once when an attractive woman left the room. But like many female agents, they did not report him for fear of retaliation.
Hendricks once asked a female subordinate to sit in the passenger seat of a vehicle â€œso that I can play with that beautiful hair.â€ He later asked the same woman why she didnâ€™t wear shorts to the office and she said â€œbecause that would be inappropriate.â€ The woman said she didnâ€™t report Hendricks because all of her work required his approval and â€œshe wanted to be successful in the office.â€
Another woman told investigators that Hendricks pressured her into having a sexual relationship, and that he had been known to be vindictive and â€œpush outâ€ people who crossed him.
â€œHe was in a powerful position,â€ the report says, â€œand she worried about what he would do if she did not respond to his advances.â€
FBI policy permits supervisors to pursue sexual relationships with subordinates but requires them be disclosed so management â€œmay determine whether remedial action, such as reassignment, is necessary to prevent interference with the FBIâ€™s mission.â€
The Office of Inspector General, however, said â€œthe imbalance of power between superiors and subordinates could call into question the consensual nature of romantic or intimate relationships.â€
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