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Judge: Lopez must pay his $300K sexual harassment fine • Brooklyn Paper

Judge: Lopez must pay his $300K sexual harassment fine

Assemblyman Vito Lopez's campaign treasurer and girlfriend run a nonprofit that pays them handsomely.
The Brooklyn Paper / Aaron Greenhood

Now someone’s seizing his assets.

Disgraced former Williamburg assemblyman and Brooklyn Democratic party boss Vito Lopez must cough up the $330,000 in fines he owes for sexually harassing his female staffers, or the state will seize his real estate and cars, says New York’s top lawyer.

“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,” said Matt Mittenthal, a spokesman for Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

A state judge on Tuesday gave Schneiderman a green light to pursue Lopez for the fine, which the legislative ethics commission slapped him with two years ago. Lopez claimed that he shouldn’t have to pay the penalty because he wasn’t given a fair chance to fight the accusations — in part because he never received the paperwork notifying him of the charges. But the judge found that Lopez refused multiple opportunities to plead his case, and that there was a reasonable chance he had just avoided collecting his mail.

Lopez’s attorney also said the fine was too damn high — claiming that it is 33 times the maximum penalty allowed for ethics violations. He said the judge didn’t understand the law, and vowed to fight the decision through the court system until they find one who does.

“We intend to appeal the decision to the Appellate Division, and on up until we find a court prepared to allow Mr. Lopez the same rights as any citizen of the United States,” said Gerald B. Lefcourt.

The assembly’s ethics commission in 2012 found Lopez guilty of breaking its harassment rules after two young, female staffers accused him of a laundry list of creepy behavior, including groping and trying to kiss them, telling them to “dress sexy” in the office, and asking one of the women give a manicure.

After the ruling, the assembly stripped Lopez of his powerful position as the chair of the Committee on Housing, and all the perks of seniority that he had racked up over 28 years in office. Lopez stepped down from his position as borough Democratic party boss the following week, but didn’t resign from his assembly seat until 2013, when he made a failed bid for city council.

The state settled a lawsuit with the two women who made the accusations earlier this year, costing taxpayers $545,000, and Lopez an additional $35,000.

Former Assembly speaker Sheldon Silver also secretly paid off two other Lopez sexual harassment accusers with $100,000 in taxpayer-funded hush money.

Reach reporter Danielle Furfaro at dfurfaro@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her at twitter.com/DanielleFurfaro.

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