Embattled Rep. Vito Fossella admitted this week to fathering a daughter with the woman who bailed him out of an Alexandria, Virginia jail after his arrest for drunk driving.
In a bombshell statement on Thursday, Fossella said: “I have had a relationship with Laura Fay, with whom I have a 3-year-old daughter.
“My personal failings and imperfections have caused enormous pain to the people I love and I am truly sorry,” he added.
Even before Fossella (R–Bay Ridge) admitted to the sexual liaison and paternity, the Washington Post had reported that the six-term lawmaker would drop his bid for re-election.
But Fossella — the city’s lone Republican in Congress — did not address his political future, saying that “making any political decisions right now are furthest from my mind.”
Rather, he said that his priority “over the coming weeks and months” would be to “work hard to heal the deep wounds I have caused.”
The stunning admission capped a topsy-turvy week that began with that drunk-driving arrest early last Thursday in the Virginia suburbs and subsequent reports of an extra-marital affair with Fay, a divorced single mom who lives in Alexandria with her 3-year-old daughter.
The paternity announcement was the latest chapter in a potboiler mystery that began with drinks after a White House party on Wednesday afternoon, led to an arrest for driving with more than twice the legal limit of booze in his system, then added in a tantalizing mystery when Fossella called his “close friend” to bail him out of jail.
He’s now facing a mandatory five-day sentence, a House Ethics Committee investigation and personal ruin. Here’s how this fast-moving story — and the congressman — went down:
The wild week began on April 30, when Fossella went on a bender after a day of typical D.C. politicking. The congressman attended a function for outgoing Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern, which was followed by an afternoon stop at the White House, where President Bush feted the Super Bowl champion New York Giants.
From there, a Fossella staffer said, the good times continued at the Logan Tavern in the Dupont Circle neighborhood. The Daily News reported that Fossella showed up at the bar, already intoxicated, at 10 pm.
Fossella and a friend were ejected from the bar after the drinking buddy, who had already passed out at the bar, fell on a table, breaking it, the News reported.
Fossella, who rents a condo in the District of Columbia, got behind the wheel of a Honda Civic and, by 12:15 am on May 1, was across the Potomac in Alexandria, Virginia, where he was quickly pulled over after a cop saw his car going through a stop sign.
He failed a number of sobriety tests, including being unable to stand on one foot or recite the alphabet starting from the letter D. Fossella first started with “A” rather than “D,” according to the police report, and then said, “D, E, F, H, G, H, I, J, L, M, N, O, P, Q, R, S, T.”
He was arrested based on those field sobriety tests, according to Alexandria’s Commonwealth Attorney Randolph Sengel, the city’s prosecutor.
Two hours later, a blood-alcohol test registered 0.17 — more than twice the legal limit. Given that the body metabolizes alcohol at a rate of .015 percent per hour, Fossella was somewhat more intoxicated — with a blood alcohol level of as high as .20 — when he got behind the wheel of the car.
The police station mugshot (page 1) showed him still haggard, with bloodshot eyes.
At the stationhouse, Fossella told Alexandria police he was headed to see his “sick daughter,” giving police a street name that matched the street where Fay lives with the 3-year-old girl.
Seven hours after his arrest, Fossella was bailed out by Fay.
After his release, Fossella issued a terse written apology on Thursday afternoon that called his drinking and driving “an error in judgment.”
“I apologize to my family and the constituents of the 13th Congressional District for embarrassing them.”
On Friday afternoon, he held a press conference on Staten Island to restate his apology.
“I know better than to get behind the wheel of a car even after only one drink,” he told a crowd of reporters and two-dozen family members and friends — including his wife Mary Pat — who were given reserved seats in the front two rows.
He vowed not to resign and fielded some questions from reporters, but he refused to provide a full accounting of the previous night, such as why he was in Virginia.
Only afterwards did reporters uncover that he had been bailed out by Fay, rather than his chief of staff, who also lives in Alexandria.
Fay is a single mom whose daughter, divorce papers showed, was not fathered by her ex-husband Guy Michael Shoaf. The couple ended their marriage in 2005.
Fay and Fossella had already crossed paths by then. The two were known to have been at an Air Force dinner in Britain in 2003 — a dinner which Fossella’s wife did not.
These revelations raised the suggestion that the congressman was having an extramarital affair and had a daughter with Fay.
At this point, Fossella dipped into campaign funds to hire outside public relations consultant Susan Del Percio. She said Fay is a “close friend,” but refused to elaborate on the nature of their relationship.
In fact, she said it was “demeaning and highly inappropriate” for the media to ask whether Fossella — the father of three children with his wife of 18 years — had fathered Fay’s child.
But Fay clearly knew something was up, making a flurry of phone calls to friends and relatives, urging them not to divulge any information about her personal life to the media.
But people did talk.
The Post quoted a family friend saying that Fossella’s wife would leave him if the rumored affair turned out to be true. And the Daily News ran a photo taken on Wednesday showing Fossella without his wedding band.
Hours later, the congressman admitted that he was an adulterer who had a double life in D.C.
Two Democrats vying for the chance to take on Fossella in November — Steve Harrison, who lost to Fossella in 2006, and Councilman Domenic Recchia (D–Coney Island) — thought he was beatable even before the arrest and admission of philandering.
The’ve adopted polar opposite responses to the incumbent’s troubles.
Recchia has sat this fight out, repeatedly declining to comment publicly, but Harrison pounced on Fossella.
“As elected officials and potential elected officials, we have an obligation to set an example for society,” Harrison said.
He’s been relentless in his criticism.
“Now is the time when he needs to make a determination on whether he can still service the people of this district,” he said.
Supporters were sticking with Fossella — at least before the extra-marital rumors started flying.
“If you knew the person, you’d know he’s a great guy,” said Frank Rappocciuolo, a friend of the family, at the press conference last Friday.
“He does great things for Staten Island and part of Brooklyn.”
As the week wore on, and Fossella’s political base was crumbling, there was louder talk that he would resign or drop his bid for re-election so a viable GOP candidate could tangle with whoever wins the Democratic nomination.
“The retired Air Force woman and the child is of concern to a lot of people,” said a political consultant, before Fossella issued his paternity statement.
If Fossella were to resign, Gov. Paterson could call for a special election to fill out the term.
In the more likely scenario that Fossella remains in office but does not seek re-election, a number of Staten Island Republicans — including James Oddo and District Attorney Daniel Donovan — are being seen as logical Republican candidates.
Fossella is due to appear for a hearing in an Alexandria courtroom on Monday, May 12.
“I have had a relationship with Laura Fay, with whom I have a three year old daughter.
My personal failings and imperfections have caused enormous pain to the people I love and I am truly sorry. While I understand that there will be many questions, including those about my political future, making any political decisions right now are furthest from my mind.
Over the coming weeks and months, I will continue to do my job and I will work hard to heal the deep wounds I have caused.” — Statement issued May 8