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August 20, 2016

After initially declining, Philly D.A. pursuing sex assault claim at DNC

Gwen Snyder said office told her they dismissed claim because attacker 'had been drinking'

Hillary accepts nomination Brian Hickey/PhillyVoice

Balloons and confetti fell from the Wells Fargo Center ceiling onto a sea of people who just witnessed Hillary Clinton make American-political history.

The Philadelphia District Attorney's Office is now investigating a sexual assualt claim that happened at the Democratic National Convention last month that it originally denied to pursue.

Gwen Snyder was a delegate for U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders when she said another delegate at the convention assaulted her in a bar. Snyder, who details part of the of the experience on an petition called "DA Williams, Don't Let Alcohol Be A Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free Card for Sexual Violence" said that around 2:30 a.m. on July 27, her assaulter put his head into her chest and began to lick her breasts.

She said she felt humiliated and found little help when she turned to officials. Snyder said that the D.A.'s office said they initially dismissed the case last Friday because though it was apparent that she didn't give consent, her assaulter "had been drinking to excess."

In her online petition, which has received more than 600 signatures, she says:

"District Attorney Williams, this is unacceptable. Alcohol cannot be a get-out-of jail-free card for sexual assault. No prosecutor would let someone get away with speeding because he was too drunk to notice the speed limit; the idea that consent should be handled any differently is ludicrous."

Now, the D.A.'s office confirmed that it has reconsidered its decision and is investigating the claim that's now received national attention.

"The complainant came in and there was a conversation that she had with the head of our unit and he decided there was need for additional investigation," said Cameron Kline, spokesman for the District Attorney's Office, told The Inquirer.

The controversy comes in the middle of a tough time for District Attorney Seth Williams.

On Friday, Williams sent an email to his staff, apologizing for the "adverse publicity" they've received after it was reported that he took more than $160,000 in previously undisclosed gifts over a five-year period.

Related: Seth Williams, please convince us you're not an ethically-challenged buffoon

The FBI is questioning members of his staff as well as one of his "gift-givers." Williams took in both personal and professional gifts, the most expensive being a $45,000 roof repair.

According to The Inquirer, Williams said in the email to his staff:

"I understand and recognize that each of you works very hard to represent the Commonwealth with integrity and honor."