Embattled Assemblyman Lopez Escapes Charges, But Report Could Lead To Expulsion
NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Brooklyn Assemblyman Vito Lopez will not face criminal charges in his sexual harassment case.
A special prosecutor said Wednesday his conduct was “alarming,” but did not rise to the level of a crime.
However, CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer reported a state ethics panel separately found Lopez violated the public trust and could face penalties.
In an Albany beset by corruption charges one guy is getting off.
Lopez dodged a bullet when Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan found no basis for a chargeable offense after investigating charges the once-powerful legislator groped and harassed female staffers.
When the scandal first broke last summer Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver demanded he quit.
“I called him and suggested that he on his own resign his Assembly seat,” Silver told Kramer. “He did not respond in a fashion other than to say ‘I can’t do that at this time.’”
But while Donovan found no criminal culpability, a report released by a state ethics panel found Lopez violated the public trust.
Many female staffers told the panel that Lopez made demeaning comments and he forced them to spend time with him outside the office, where he attempted and forced intimate contact, Kramer reported.
According to the report, female staffers recorded conversations with Lopez. One involved demands to have his neck and hands rubbed
“I want it to be a little bit adventurous alright,” Lopez told the woman. “You know and so if you rub my hand, you know I like that, and rubbing my neck like you just did was a nice gesture.”
“Alright, OK, good. Now it’s a deal. Stop crying. Alright, rub my hand, do my hand … good I like that. That means you have to rub it longer. Rub it harder, though,” Lopez said.
Meanwhile the Donovan report was critical about how the Assembly handled the Lopez affair.
“…the chief concern of those in the Assembly was mitigating the Assembly’s damaged. That goal outweighed any interest in investigating or disciplining Assembly member Lopez or in preventing similar occurrences in the future,” the report said.
Lopez is not expected to get off completely scot free. The Legislature’s Ethics Commission can fine him up to $10,000 for violating the public trust and recommend that the Assembly take other actions, like expulsion.
The commission is expected to hold a hearing Monday.
Sources told Kramer the Assembly is willing to consider expelling Lopez.
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