Brooklyn DA to Appoint Special Prosecutor to Investigate Vito Lopez

Hynes said he would appoint a special prosecutor because the Kings County Democratic Party, chaired by Lopez, supported his campaigns

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    But the 71-year-old says he'll continue to serve in the Assembly seat he's held for 28 years, a post that pays a salary as well as his pension. Meanwhile, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver reportedly signed off on a secret payment to settle a harassment charge. News 4's Chief Investigative Reporter Jonathan Dienst reports. (Published Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2012)

    Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes said Friday he would appoint a special prosecutor to investigate whether Assemblyman Vito Lopez, censured last week for allegedly sexually harassing employees, committed any crimes in the borough.

    In a statement, Hynes said he would appoint a special prosecutor because the Kings County Democratic Party, chaired by Lopez, supported his campaigns.

    That relationship, Hynes said, "had the potential to create an appearance of impropriety."

    Gloria Allred, who represented one of the women who accused Lopez of sexual harassment, said in a statement that "we look forward to cooperating with any process that is geared towards bringing to light the new facts."

    Hynes' request for a special prosecutor comes amid outrage over a secret $103,000 tax-payer funded settlement, approved by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, to two women who claimed Lopez physically and verbally harassed them. 

    Meanwhile, state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman released a statement Friday saying that though his office was involved in settlement agreements, he had no role in keeping them secret.

    "If true, the actions of Assemblyman Lopez are reprehensible, and the decision of the Assembly to keep secret the provision of -- and even the existence of -- a settlement agreement was wholly inappropriate and contrary to the public interest," Schneiderman said.

    Thursday, the New York Times reported that five women who once worked for Lopez recounted a hostile, sexualized environment, where he and others made unwanted advances, urged women not to wear bras and demanded they compliment him.

    Other women interviewed by the Times said they had not witnessed any alleged harassment.

    Lopez denies any wrongdoing.  He has rejected calls to resign from office. 

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