Friday, August 31, 2012

Brooklyn DA calls for special prosecutor in Lopez grope case
Last Updated: 2:13 PM, August 31, 2012
Posted: 1:04 PM, August 31, 2012

The Brooklyn district attorney today called for a special prosecutor to be appointed to probe possible criminal conduct by powerhouse state Assemblyman Vito Lopez in connection with claims that he sexually harassed multiple female staffers.
In his bombshell request, District Attorney Charles Hynes the appointment of a special prosecutor was warranted to investigate possible crimes that otherwise would be probed by Hynes' own political connections to Lopez's political stature.
Lopez, like Hynes, is an elected Democratic official, and Lopez long has served as boss of the Brooklyn Democratic Party, a post he now says he will not seek to continue in because of the ongoing scandal.
Christopher Sadowski
New York State Assemblyman Vito Lopez
Lopez, 71, has been accused of harassing four female staffers. Two of them in June received a total $135,080 settlement from the state Assemblyman. The other two women's complaints last month led to his censure a week ago.
Lopez denies the claims.
Hynes said in a statement, "Press reports concerning the report of the Assembly Standing Committee on Ethics and Guidance to Speaker Sheldon Silver, regarding allegations against Assemblyman Vito Lopez, did not make clear the county where the alleged acts occurred."
"I made a request to the Standing Committee to determine if any of the conduct occurred in Kings County. On Wednesday . . . Assemblyman Daniel O’Donnell, chair of the committee advised me that some of the conduct did occur in Kings County," Hynes said.
"Later that day I asked for and received a copy of the committee’s letter to Speaker Silver. After review with my senior staff I determined that the support of the Kings County Democratic County Committee, led by Assemblyman Lopez, for my re-election campaign in 2009 and my upcoming re-election (2013) had the potential to create an appearance of impropriety requiring me to apply for the appointment of another District Attorney to conduct an investigation of the committee’s findings," the DA said.
"This morning I applied for the appointment of a Special District Attorney and am making public my affirmation supporting my application," Hynes said.
Lopez's lawyer, Gerald Lefcourt, declined to comment today when contacted by The Post and told of the stunning development.
Hynes made his request a day after it was revealed that Lopez’s victims initially demanded $1.2 million from the Assembly to buy their silence — even though one of the two women was never groped or harassed by him, according to documents and sources.
His ex-deputy chief-of-staff Rita Pasarell claimed only that she was working in a hostile environment, while co-plaintiff Leah Hebert said that, at most, he made inappropriate comments to her, a source said.

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