A New Jersey woman is suing Embassy Suites, the Hilton Worldwide hotel chain and the owner of a downtown Des Moines hotel alleging she was raped in April 2014 after staff gave a key to her room to a man whose flirtations she had repeatedly rejected.

Signs on hotel room door
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The woman initially filed the lawsuit in New Jersey in June, but it was put on hold while the hotel company and her attorneys worked to settle the case through mediation. After a mediation session on Dec. 8 failed to result in a settlement, attorneys for both sides agreed to transfer the case to federal court in Des Moines for trial. A judge ordered the transfer on Tuesday.

The woman says she was awakened in her room in the early morning of April 10, 2014 to someone touching her leg. Christopher Edward LaPointe, now 31, of New York was standing at the foot of her bed holding a large threatening object. He warned her not to scream for help.

Police charged him with sex abuse and burglary charges. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced in December 2014 to 20 years in prison. He's housed at the Oakdale medium security prison near Coralville.

LaPointe had pursued her for two days in the hotel restaurant and bar even though she repeatedly rejected his flirtations.

He restrained her and "proceeded over a substantial amount of time to assault, batter, terrorize and rape," the lawsuit documents said. She lost consciousness and when she awoke he was gone. The woman reported the incident to Des Moines police and to hotel management.

Police investigators, relying on hotel surveillance videos and other evidence, determined LaPointe convinced hotel front desk attendants to give him a key to the woman's room without confirming whether it was his room number or whether he had the right to enter the room, the lawsuit said. The key wouldn't open the door so LaPointe summoned a hotel maintenance worker who unlocked the door and let him in. LaPointe told the worker that he shared the room with his girlfriend and she locked him out after they had a fight. LaPointe, a long-standing customer and a Hilton Honors Club member, was familiar to hotel staff.

The woman seeks monetary damages. She claims negligence, recklessness and outrageous conduct on the part of the hotel operators and owners.

The attorney for Embassy Suites, Hilton and Atrium TRS III, a Delaware-based company that owns the hotel declined to comment.  An Embassy Suites spokeswoman said in an email Wednesday the company does not comment on pending litigation.

The woman is named in the lawsuit but The Associated Press doesn't name victims of sexual assault.

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