MINEOLA, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A Long Island candidate for public office was in big trouble Monday evening, accused of the forcible sexual touching of two men he counseled in rehab therapy.
As CBS 2’s Jennifer McLogan reported, Joseph Wood’s Nassau Conservative Party candidacy for town clerk of North Hempstead has been challenged as a result.
The alleged incidents occurred on Sept. 27 and Oct. 6 at a sober house in Uniondale where Wood, 73, is a counselor.
In each case, police said Wood “began to hug the victim and then proceeded to forcibly touch the victim in a sexual manner.”
The alleged victims are 21 and 31 years old.
Wood, of Mineola, pleaded not guilty to two counts of forcible touching and was ordered conditionally released to probation following his arraignment Saturday.
As 1010 WINS’ Mona Rivera reported, the Nassau Conservative Party wants him off the ballot at once.
“”He was playing touchy-feely with a couple of guys, and that doesn’t fly with us at all,” said Nassau Conservative Party Chairman Daniel Donovan Jr.
Donovan said he had never endorsed or even met Donovan.
CSB 2 reached Wood at his Mineola home after his arraignment Monday, but he declined to comment and shut the door.
The candidates facing Wood – Republican incumbent Leslie Gross and Democratic challenger Wayne Wink – called the scandal surrounding their opponent an unwanted distraction.
“Serious allegations, and I know Mr. Wood needs to address them,” Wink said.
“It’s the residents who live here, who shouldn’t have to put up with this kind of sham that he got onto the ballot in the first place,” added Gross.
Nassau County police said they were called to a Uniondale home where Wood is a volunteer counselor, following claims that Wood hugged them and grabbed their genitals following group therapy.
With the candidate’s arrest, those who rely on Wood’s nonprofit sober homes worry about their futures.
“If it wasn’t for this house, I’d be in a lot of trouble,” one sober home participant said. “These are the best sober houses on Long Island.”
Wood is a former diocesan steward for the Roman Catholic Church. He joined the North Hempstead town clerk race after getting enough petitions to run on the conservative line.
Wood’s next court date is three weeks after Election Day.
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