By now, you've probably heard about New York's latest sex-scandal-of-a-politician, Assemblyman Vito "Gropez" Lopez.
While Lopez's pervy predilections have been public since at least 2012, the Assemblyman's luck has appeared to have run out, and the New York Post is reporting that Lopez will finally step down on Monday before 10 a.m. The 71-year-old politician had originally hoped to close out the legislative session in June but now wants to retire before an expulsion vote can be arranged.
How did we get here? Well here's what we know.
Lopez has a lot of political clout. He controls a nonprofit agency in Brooklyn that serves as a "de facto political machine" for him and allies, and was chairman of the Housing Committee in the Assembly. But Lopez has also long been known for his inappropriate behavior. These issues first came to light last June, when two women quietly settled a sexual harassment complaint, receiving taxpayer settlements of $103,000. The settlement also drew Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who gave the go-ahead and helped keep it quiet, into the scandal.
In August, 2012, the New York Times published a scathing expose on Lopez's inappropriate behavior. According to the article, Lopez told women not to wear bras to work, requested they wear short skirts and high heels, gave them cash to buy jewelry, complimented them on their figures, urged women to break up with their boyfriends, berated women who did not compliment him "effusively enough," invited women on overnight trips, told women they were "well-endowed," and, of course, made overt sexual advances.
But even after the news became public, and even after the Assembly censured him, Lopez easily won reelection this past fall.
Recently, Lopez was stripped of all party leadership positions after he commented on how he thought a 14-year-old intern was sexy, saying that he wished he lived in a state where he could sleep with underaged girls. That intern was also the daughter of a Brooklyn judge who helped Lopez get elected.
His comments became public after he asked another 24-year-old employee, Chloe Rivera, to "dress sexier," more like the 14-year-old intern. Rivera's mother notified police and filed an ethics complaint with the New York Assembly, and Rivera also filed a sexual harassment complaint with the Assembly Ethics Committee.
Now, at least eight women who worked for Lopez have told stories of sexual harassment to investigators from the New York Joint Commission on Public Ethics, although four of those women did not file a formal complaint.
According to the report issued by the Joint Commission, Lopez routinely groped staffers, sought to stay in hotel rooms with them, and gave one staffer pink eye after forcing her to put drops in his eyes. According to the New York Times, two women were so repulsed, they began secretly taping their interactions.
One woman secretly recording Lopez "began to cry after he pressured her to massage his hand," because she was uncomfortable because she had been raped in college. He told her, "Stop crying... Alright, rub my hand, do my hand."
Another woman complained Lopez tried to make her stay in a hotel room with him in Atlantic City. When she refused, he grabbed her face and tried to kiss her, and later pressured her to massage his hand and forced his right hand between her legs.
Why did it go on for so long? Well, at least one of the women believes that he was "oblivious" to the situation he created with his female staff. She reports that although he touched her, leered at her, and came on to her on an overnight trip, she doesn't "think he realizes or understands that what he was doing was bad."
Furthermore, Lopez's formidable political clout appears to have discouraged female staffers, many of whom had nominal experience in politics, from reporting anything. According to the Times, one Assembly member is quoted in the report saying, "You can’t get a dog license in Brooklyn without Lopez’s blessing."
Assembly speaker Sheldon Silver is also accused of shielding Mr. Lopez from public scrutiny by "failing to investigate and refer the initial harassment allegations to an Assembly ethics committee," making statements that "were not candid" and encouraging staffers to keep the matter a secret. The report itself was only released under pressure and after a failed politically-motivated campaign to have extensive sections edited out of the report.
Lopez's girlfriend, a co-chair of his Brooklyn nonprofit, appears to be standing by his side.
[via, photo via AP]