Star of HBO drag queen series 'We're Here' accused of rape in lawsuit filed by former assistant

 May 7, 2023

A drag queen with the stage name of Shangela -- real name Darius Jeremy Pierce -- who was a former contestant on "RuPaul's Drag Race" and a star of HBO's "We're Here" series, has been accused in a lawsuit of rape and sexual harassment.

The lawsuit was filed Wednesday in a Los Angeles, California court by a former production assistant for the HBO series named Daniel McGarrigle, according to Timcast.

It alleges that Pierce got McGarrigle drunk at a crew party in Ruston, Louisiana in February 2020 and then further drugged and took sexual advantage of the highly inebriated and passed-out assistant in a hotel room.

Allegedly drugged and raped

According to the nine-page complaint, McGarrigle detailed how a "heavily flirtatious" Pierce had purchased him multiple shots and mixed drinks during a crew party at a local restaurant and bar in Louisiana after production had wrapped on an episode, then asked him to come back to Pierce's hotel room to help pack for a flight in the morning.

The highly intoxicated McGarrigle was sick in the bathroom as soon as they got to Pierce's hotel room and Pierce advised him to rest on the bed until he felt better, at which point McGarrigle agreed and passed out while fully clothed.

He awoke later to a liquid being poured on his face that he alleged was an inhaled drug known as "poppers" and realized that his pants had been pulled down and Pierce was attempting to rape him. McGarrigle claimed that he shouted "No!" and tried to get away but was too weak from the alcohol and drug and was quickly overpowered and "aggressively" sexually assaulted by Pierce, who allegedly stated, "I know you want it, and you're going to take it."

McGarrigle acknowledged that he didn't immediately report the incident out of fear of losing his job with HBO and attempted to maintain a "cordial relationship" with Pierce, but alleged that Pierce only became even more physically and verbally flirtatious in sexually harassing him, which ultimately prompted him to resign in July 2021.

In addition to the allegations of "sexual assault," "gender violence," and "false imprisonment" against Pierce, McGarrigle also accused the production company, Buckingham TV, and some of its employees and executives of enabling and facilitating a "hostile work environment" by allowing Pierce to sexually harass him and of failing to fully investigate the matter or hold Pierce accountable once he finally did come forward to complain.

Pierce vehemently denies the alleged sexual assault

"I can’t begin to explain how hurt and disgusted I am by these totally untrue allegations," Pierce said in a statement to the Los Angeles Times in response to the lawsuit. "They are personally offensive and perpetuate damaging stereotypes that are harmful not only to me but also to my entire community."

"An external investigation into this embittered individual’s claims previously concluded that they were completely without merit. This newest filing is nothing but an attempt to shake down both me and a well-regarded television company," he continued. "No one should be fooled: It has no basis in fact or in law, and it will not succeed."

"As a hardworking and outspoken drag entertainer for more than a decade, I know that I am far from alone in battling ignorance, bigotry, and prejudice, all of which played a role in the filing of this complaint," Pierce added. "That is why I will fight this entirely meritless lawsuit and not allow it to destroy me and those I love, or harm the causes we all stand for."

The Times noted that other members of the production team, both on the record and anonymously, have confirmed that McGarrigle shared with them what had occurred, and other unnamed individuals have reportedly reached out to McGarrigle with similar accusations against Pierce. McGarrigle formally filed a report with the Ruston Police in November 2022 and the department has confirmed that there is an "ongoing investigation" of the alleged incident.

Production company says internal investigation found "insufficient evidence"

Deadline reported that the production company cited in the suit also issued a statement in response to McGarrigle's allegations, and said, "Buckingham Television, the production company for We’re Here, received a complaint late summer 2021 regarding an incident that was alleged to have occurred in early 2020."

"Buckingham and HBO take the safety and well-being of personnel on our shows very seriously, and Buckingham immediately launched an investigation. The investigation concluded that there was insufficient evidence to support these allegations," the statement added.

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