New York – A special prosecutor has been appointed to probe a powerful Democratic party boss, New York Assemblyman Vito Lopez, who is accused of sexually harassing young women on his staff.
Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan was named Friday to examine allegations leveled by a string of women against Lopez, whose leadership of the Democratic Party of Kings County has made him a political kingmaker in Brooklyn for six years.
Donovan is being brought in to handle the inquiry after the Brooklyn District Attorney, Charles Hynes, recused himself from the case because he has often benefited from Lopez’ political support.
The state Assembly censured Lopez on Aug. 24 after its ethics committee accused him of touching two women inappropriately, trying to kiss them, and repeatedly making comments about their bodies.
The scandal has been deepened by the disclosure that Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver had secretly agreed to use $103,000 in state money to pay a legal settlement to another woman in June.
Critics have complained that the payoff amounted to using taxpayer funds to cover up a scandal. Silver has apologized, and said the payment was a mistake.
Before excusing himself from the case, Hynes said in a court filing that the criminal inquiry should also look at potential violations of election law, but didn’t specify what those might be.