New York, NY– The New York Supreme Court ruled this week that former Assemblyman Vito Lopez will have to pay the $130,000 fine levied on him by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman following a very public sexual harassment scandal.
Back in 2013, Lopez was accused of sexually harassing two of his office interns and was forced to resign from the Assembly later that year. Because of those accusations, the state was forced to pay the Lopez’s victims healthy sums to resolve their claims and amassed costly legal bills, so AG Schneiderman passed those costs onto Lopez by fining him for violating the chamber’s policies, according to Albany Times Union.
The Legislative Ethics Commission fined Lopez $10,000 for each of the 33 counts of sexual harassment confirmed by the Joint Commission on Professional Ethics, according to the New York Daily News.
Lopez, however, denied the allegations and challenged the fines, alleging that he was not given the opportunity to defend himself and he was assured the $10,000 was the maximum fine he would face. State Supreme Court Justice Richard McNally disagreed with Lopez’s assertions and order the former politician to pay the fines.
A representative for AG Schneiderman said in a statement he was happy with the verdict, adding, “A legislator guilty of wrongdoing should be held to the same standard as any other individual, and we will take all appropriate action to recover this money on behalf of the people of New York.”
Lopez plans to appeal according to the New York Daily News.
The fines Lopez was ordered to pay, pales in comparison with what the state paid to settle the original sexual harassment claims. The Times Union reports that in February of this year the state paid over $500K to two of Lopez’s accusers. And in 2012, now disgraced speaker Sheldon Silver, negotiated a secret settlement of $104,000 with two other interns who accused Lopez of inappropriate sexual behavior.
At the height of Lopez’s highly reported fall from grace, some of the salacious details of Lopez’s behavior surfaced. For one, the JCOPE investigation found that Lopez sexually harassed eight women on his staff.
One woman accused Lopez of offering her a trip to the Governor’s mansion is she engaged in a nude escapade in one of the bedrooms. The same woman accused him of forcibly kissing her and running his hands up and down her thighs when she accompanied him on a business trip to Atlantic City. Another women alleged she was forced to meet the politician at bars and restaurants at least twice a week.
At one point, Silver prohibited Lopez from hiring young interns because of his propensity to sexually harass women on his staff.
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