Hyatt Worker Says Hotel Ignored Assault by Royal
by Nicholas Fillmore, Court House News, August 12, 2016
HONOLULU (CN) — While the House of Saud is no stranger to accusations of bad boy behavior, including claims of drug smuggling, light sodomy and generalized mayhem, a recent lawsuit filed against the Hyatt Regency suggests how even the well-intentioned can succumb to royal patronage.
Michelle Silberstein says has been unable to return her job as a licensed massage therapist and esthetician at the Na Ho'ola Spa in the Hyatt Regency Waikiki since she was sexually assaulted in August 2014 by Hassan Maan Melhem, an interpreter for a Saudi prince.
Melhem later pleaded no contest to fourth-degree sexual assault and was given a deferred sentence and probation.
According the complaint, the prince — named in Silberstein's complaint as John Doe 1 — has been a special guest of the Hyatt for several years, travelling with an entourage of males belonging to his ODAIS Group.
Melhem has accompanied the prince on multiple occasions to Hawaii, where he books entire floors of the Hyatt each year for weeks or months at a time. The income generated from the prince runs in the millions of dollars, so naturally the Hyatt indulges the prince's every whim, Silberstein says in her complaint.
One of the special arrangements offered by the Hyatt to the Saudi prince only is exclusive access to the entire Na Ho'ola Spa for extended blocks of time after hours, Silberstein says, adding that the prince specifically asked that spa employees line up for his colleagues to choose from.
The spa complied and ordered the employees to line up, the complaint says.
On the evening of Aug. 14, 2014, Silberstein was assigned to do a facial for an ODAIS Group member. Instead, Melhem showed up and ordered Silberstein to give him a body scrub, during which Silberstein says Melhem pulled her onto the table and tried to make her touch his genitals.
Silberstein says she managed to fend off Melhem's advances and was only able to escape from the room when someone was heard in the hallway. Undeterred, Melhem followed Silberstein and offered her a gift if she would go up to his room, according to the complaint.
Fearing for her safety, Silberstein says she fled the premises and reported the incident to the spa's director. The spa director reported the incident to the Hyatt's director of rooms, sales manager and the director of security, as well as an ODAIS Group liaison, the complaint says.
The next morning, Silberstein says she arrived at the hotel flanked by her significant other and a staff security guard to meet with the Hyatt's security director.
"From the outset of the interview, [the director] made it clear that his priority was to protect the ODAIS Group, not plaintiff," Silberstein says in her complaint. "He discouraged plaintiff from reporting the sexual assault to the police. Only after plaintiff insisted the police be called, did he agree to do so."
Although the security director's attempts to discourage Honolulu police from arresting Melhem were vain, Silberstein says Melhem was welcomed back to the Hyatt and the hotel spa after being released from jail the next day.
When contacted for comment, a manager of corporate communications at Hyatt's headquarters in Chicago seemed unaware of the incident. After further investigation, the manager said in an email, "While we do not discuss pending litigation, the safety and well-being of our colleagues is a top priority for Hyatt and we treat all safety concerns raised by our colleagues seriously. We pride ourselves on fostering and maintaining an award-winning workplace that's reflected in the long tenure of our colleagues around the world, including those in Honolulu."
Silberstein's attorney David Simons did not respond to requests for comment by press time.
Silberstein is suing the Hyatt, Melhem and unnamed members of the ODAIS Group for sexual harassment, assault and battery and negligence. She seeks special, general and punitive damages.