“That there were multiple incidents of unwelcome physical conduct toward one complainant, wherein you put your hand on her leg, she removed your hand, and you then put your hand between her upper thighs, putting your hand as far up between her legs as you could go;
That you required one of the complainants to take a trip with you to Atlantic City in July 2012, and that you attempted to kiss her, that she struggled to fend you off before you stopped, and that on the drive back from Atlantic City you again put your hand between her legs.”
The “you” in this shocking description of abuse is none other than powerful Brooklyn party boss Vito Lopez, and the quote is from the August 24th report of the Assembly Committee on Ethics and Guidance. The Committee found that these charges brought against Lopez by two of his interns were credible, and recommended that he be censured, stripped of his committee chairmanship and funding, and barred from hiring anyone under 21 — all of which the Assembly did this past Friday.
Should Vito Lopez resign? Of course. That isn’t the right question. The question is: Why do we have to wait for corrupt politicians to assault interns (Lopez) or beat up a girlfriend (Hiram Monseratte) before we can get rid of them? Why are sex crimes so much more heinous than what Lopez has been doing for decades? As the Daily News put it, he “is an old-time political boss who rewards loyalty and tries to stomp out opposition. As party boss, he controls — with an iron fist — the selection of Brooklyn judges.” Despite constant rumors of corruption, usually based around the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council which he founded and where his girlfriend, Angela Battaglia, earns $343,000, Lopez strode around the Capitol and Brooklyn like a banana republic dictator. Untouchable, but seemingly feeling free to fondle and violate not only his interns but our democracy, it’s ironic that his downfall finally comes as a result of two young employees who had the courage to speak out — courage that some of Lopez’s colleagues could take a lesson from.
Apparently, longtime Lopez ally Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who has been criticized in the past as slow to respond to sexual misconduct complaints, wasn’t going to make the same mistake again. Lopez, who has been a king-maker in the Assembly since 1984, has now lost much of his power base and will almost certainly face more scrutiny into long-standing allegations of corruption – he had previously been at the center of at least two federal investigations and a third inquiry by the City’s Department of Investigation.