Day for Night Festival cuts ties with founder Omar Afra amidst sexual assault allegations
After being accused of sexual assault by two former colleagues, Afra says the allegations ate 'patently false' and are part of a 'coordinated campaign' against him
Houston art and music festival Day for Night has cut ties with its founder, Omar Afra, following sexual misconduct allegations, the festival’s creditors announced on Facebook on Sunday. “[T]he creditors have deemed it appropriate to foreclose on the entity which owns the festival, effectively removing Omar Afra from any ownership or involvement in Day For Night from this day forward," the statement reads. "Out of respect for these alleged victims, any announcement about the future of Day For Night will be made at a later date.”
According to a report by Consequence of Sound, two women, Veronica Ramos and Phoenix Hamilton, posted allegations on Facebook that Afra sexually assaulted them. Hamilton shared her story on Facebook late last week where she said Afra reached out to her last October offering her a job and that the two agreed to meet at a Houston bar to discuss the opportunity.
“Upon his suggestion we left the bar to continue our discussion at his apartment. It was there that he came onto me, suddenly and forcefully,” Hamilton alleged. “He didn’t ask for my consent before he touched me. He kept kissing me even though I kept saying NO. He held onto me after I asked him multiple times to let me go. I got away before it could go any further. I raced home and took a shower to get the taste of him off of me.”
Hamilton said she later learned that one of her friends, Veronica Ramos, had also been assaulted by Afra several years earlier. “I let my guard down and he took advantage of my trust,” Hamilton wrote. “After confiding in one another, Veronica and I believe that this is a pattern of abuse. What he did to me was not an isolated event as he a claimed it was a week after the fact, and we believe that there other victims out there with stories of their own.”
To accompany her post, Hamilton included screenshots of her text message correspondence with Afra (which you can see below via her Facebook page), including a message in which Afra apologizes for “being forward.” Hamilton also shared a signed affidavit detailing her assault.
Meanwhile, Veronica Ramos, who said she had a professional relationship with Afra due to her photography work, claimed that Afra forcibly kissed and groped her at the Free Press office in October 2010, following a concert she had photographed at Fitzgerald's, a nightclub he owned. “For almost 8 years I kept silent and trapped in my own cycle of trauma in fear of ruining someone’s reputation, all while isolating myself. I will no longer remain silent,” Ramos wrote.
“It is not my responsibility to protect the ego and lifestyle of people who use their power to abuse and hurt others. It is not in my moral code to protect these types of people over my own safety and truth, or over the safety and truth of others.” Ramos, too, included messenger correspondence she had with Afra as well as a signed affidavit.
For his part, Afra called the allegations “patently false” and said they are part of a “coordinated campaign” against him. Afra initially responded to the allegations in the comment’s section of Hamilton’s post. As CoS points out, posting under the pseudonym 'Samuel Houston,' Afra said he has been “documenting this coordinated campaign for the past 10 months with lawyers, federal and local law enforcement… Much more will come out about this in the coming days, weeks, and months both online and in courts.”
“To be clear, I did not sexually assault these women and their complaints were immediately disposed by law enforcement because they lacked veracity,” Afra continued. He said one of his accusers, Veronica, was “not consistent with someone who had just been assaulted,” as she posted conflicting accounts on social media and continued to reach out to him for tickets months after the alleged assault took place. Regarding Hamilton’s allegations, Afra said her claims are “false and inconsistent,” and said “what she is claiming does not even equate to sexual assault by her own words and legal definition and that is why their complaints to law enforcement were so quickly disposed of.”
These posts were later deleted but in a subsequent statement posted to his own Facebook account, Afra acknowledged recent behavior in which “I have veered away from what I knew was right and caused pain to those around me including family and friends.” He said he is currently undergoing therapy and has decided to step down from his positions at Day For Night and Free Press Summer Fest, as well as at Free Press Houston, where he served as publisher.
However, Afra maintained that the allegations of assault made against him are “false” and said he has “no choice but to fight back against allegations that are patently false. It would do no justice to anyone for me to capitulate to lies and fabrications. There is so much more to know about this coordinated attempt but this is clearly not the forum to do so. If I am to move forward on a path of true integrity I need to apologize for what were bad decisions but fight falsehoods tooth and nail.”
This is a developing story and will be updated as more details surface. Stay tuned for more.